Otago abandons disposable cups at Dunedin campus

Based on New Zealand’s unique cultural value of Kaitiakitanga, which literally translates into care for the world around us for future generations, three cafés on the University of Otago’s Dunedin campus are going single-use disposable cup free from today. This thoughtful step will stop about 1400 cups going to landfill every week – and eventually the whole University aims to be on board towards this mission.

Many people are already using reusable cups as those three cafés are currently filling them about 620 times a week – and all those customers get a 50-cent discount, University Hospitality Events Supervisor Jasmine Millar says.

A survey during a recent semester break also showed:

  • St David café filled about 850 single-use cups weekly
  • Te Mātiti, about 400 
  • The Staff Club, about 150

After the change, anyone who forgets to bring a reusable cup has the option of borrowing a cup from those cafés’ cup libraries then returning it to any café on campus said Miss Millar.

New Zealand scores highly for its policy environment, teaching environment and socio-economic environment. Education New Zealand’s ‘Think New’ brand philosophy encourages creativity and innovation amongst students and allows them to think critically, creatively and collaboratively.

The cup library service will be free for a fortnight from Monday, then borrowers will pay $1 to get a cup and on returning it, will get $1 off that purchase.

University Operations Manager Martin Jones says the cafés making the change were chosen for strategic reasons – St David and Te Mātiti are virtually at opposite ends of the campus and including the Staff Club highlights staff’s commitment.

No longer having single-use cups was also attractive to him commercially as it saves money – when many other costs keep rising – because the cafés no longer have to buy the cups.

Café staff want to help the environment as well and this change has started everyone thinking about other environmentally-friendly initiatives the cafes could introduce, so food packaging will be examined next.

The University’s Sustainability Office approached hospitality management about making the cup change and has linked management to the valuable experience, advice and resources provided by the not-for-profit organisation Use Your Own Cup, said Jones.

Sustainability Office Engagement Coordinator Jesikah Triscott said using a reusable cup may seem a small step “but when we’re all taking these small actions, we can have a really big impact”.

The timing of the change is also significant, because the Sustainability Office is launching Green Impact the following day, an initiative which supports staff and students to take small steps, every day towards helping our University become a more sustainable and healthier place to be.

Sustainability Office Head Dr Hilary Phipps is also encouraging people to use their reusable cups no matter which café they are visiting to grab their take-away coffee, because every action counts.

She said moving away from single-use cups to reusable is a great example of the University helping to make changes “that support every one of us to make smart sustainable choices”.

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