Student Blog

Disposable Cup Free Tallinn University – a distant dream or a tangible reality?

When will Tallinn University get rid of disposable cups?

Topsivaba TLÜ

According to the survey conducted among TLU students and staff by the LIFE project team, 94% of the respondents believe that TLU will give up disposable drinking cups. 40% of respondents are already using a reusable drinking cup daily. To solve the problem of disposable cups, the project members suggested to the university to offer a greater discount at both cafes and coffee machines for customers who buy coffee in their own cups; to choose the coffee machine service providers who offer the choice of purchasing coffee in a reusable cup, and following the example of the world's prestigious universities launch a cup circulation system

Disposable drinking cups are still a part of the coffee-breaks at Tallinn University, whether you would like to order from the cafeterias or vending machines. The use of disposable drinking cups generates a large amount of waste, most of which is non-recyclable as disposable cups are made of a mix of cardboard and a plastic membrane. Approximately 200,000 disposable plastic-lined coffee cups are purchased every day in Estonia, which life-cycle ends in an incinerator.

The aim of the LIFE project "disposable cup free TLU" was to map the current situation, in cooperation with service providers and the university administration, and to offer solutions to reduce the use of disposable cups on campus. A survey was conducted to examine the willingness of both students and staff to use a reusable cup for hot drinks, and their attitudes towards disposable cups and the environment.

As the survey revealed, 94% of the respondents believe that Tallinn University will eliminate disposable cups in the future, and 40% of the respondents already use a reusable cup. A disposable cup is often used in case someone leaves a reusable one at home, or sometimes the single-use option is just more convenient. At the same time, 41% of the respondents expressed their willingness and motivation to change their current habits and start using reusable cups more. When communicating with the cafés and introducing to them our own idea about a cup circulation scheme, the correspondence did not reveal their enthusiasm or interest, which we noticed in the customers of the cafés.

Based on the results of the project, it was suggested to the university to move towards the complete elimination of disposable cups, dishes and cutlery, which has already been done by the offices of  BFM, the School of Natural Sciences and Health, and the School of Governance, Law and Society. It was also proposed that in the future only coffee machines that allow the user to buy a beverage with a reusable cup should be rented: at the moment, only the Mare building machine offers this option. Also, it was suggested for university cafés to offer a more significant discount when customers use a reusable cup, and to develop a more comprehensive cup circulation system.

We believe that good influence helps to shape good habits. Introducing the culture of reusable drinking cups, and shaping the reputation of a green university certainly plays an important role in launching a cup circulation scheme within the university, which has been successfully done by famous universities such as York University, Edinburgh University, Melbourne University, etc. The results of the survey in Estonian can be found here . The full report of the LIFE project will be available soon on the LIFE webpage.

Thank You to everyone who participated in the survey! 
ELU project “Cup free TLU” project team

Illustration: Edinburgh University Students' Association