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University scheme saves more than one million single-use plastic cups from landfill

Posted on 14 February 2022

More than one million single-use plastic cups have been prevented from going into landfill thanks to the University of York’s YORCUP scheme.

YORCUP was launched in 2019. Image credit: University of York

YORCUP is a cup scheme which allows customers to purchase a cup which they can use again and again when buying a hot drink to go. 

The initiative was launched after the catering and hospitality team calculated that more than 500,000 single-use plastic cups had been used in their outlets in 2018.

Since then 1,108,329 cups have avoided landfill over the three years the scheme has been running due to a dramatic reduction in single-use cup purchases.

Latte levy

Prior to YORCUP, the University already had a ‘Bring Your Own Cup’ scheme which meant any customers who brought a cup for their take-away hot drink received a discount.

The scheme was a success, but the team wanted to go further, and in January 2019 they worked with the Student Union (YUSU) and colleagues in commercial services to introduce YORCUP, as well as a 20p latte levy in all of their outlets for customers using a single-use cup.

YORCUP allows customers to purchase a cup for £5 while getting their first drink free and avoiding the 20p latte levy. The scheme also lets customers hand back their dirty cup at any University outlet, while keeping their green sleeve. The next time they wish to purchase a hot drink, they simply show their sleeve to get their drink in a clean cup and avoid the 20p latte levy. 


Jo Hossell, sustainability and Inclusivity Engagement office at the University of York said: “YORCUP is a well-designed solution to a common waste problem; it is easy to adopt, it benefits the users and it has clear benefits for sustainability. It has been good to see staff and students taking ownership of the scheme and citing it as an example of what they do to be more sustainable.” 

Patrick O’Donnell, President of University of York Students' Union, added: "The success of the YorCup scheme shows that both students and staff care deeply about our environment, both locally and nationally, and about making a difference. The widespread take-up and adoption of the scheme, across both University and YUSU outlets, shows that it's easy to play your part in making our University a more sustainable community."


To date, a total of 6,493 YORCUPS have been purchased and the latte levy has raised £54,327.76. The University is reinvesting the funds back into sustainable initiatives on campus and in the local community. This includes the installation of single-use plastic cup recycling bins on campus as well as YORCUP drop-off bins. Food has also been donated to local food banks and money gifted to a local ‘pay as you go’ cafe. 


Jane Anness, head of Hospitality, Catering and Retail at the University of York said: “We are very proud that our scheme has raised the profile of our sustainability initiative in both the city of York and the wider field. Our commitment is demonstrated through our continued running of this scheme throughout the pandemic.”


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