Professors from Swinburne University in Victoria have proposed that universities should take a lead role in the reduction of disposable coffee cup use in an article published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.
The commentary, written by Dr Jonathan Kingsley, with Jacqueline O’Brien and Dr Aisling Bailey, says some universitieshave already taken such actions. This includes strategies to change student behaviour involving financial incentives, refillable cups, raising awareness, and marketing.
“Waste management strategies in university settings have shown great potential, but a greater understanding of waste production and management is required,” the article says.
“This improved understanding requires universities engaging and innovating to change coffee drinking culture, increase knowledge, and develop recycling waste management systems that minimise the effects of the already.”
Jonathan says that researchers have attempted to measure the environmental effects of the coffee-market chain through life-cycle assessments. Evidence also shows that these environmental effects vary greatly, from the carbon footprint associated with transport to disposable coffee cups contributing to waste.
The article argues that, although networks and systems need to be put in place to address some of these issues, consumers can easily address the environmental effects disposable coffee cups cause.
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“The higher education sector could have a considerable role in addressing this waste reduction issue at a local scale, because of its ability to undertake academic research and influence the behaviour of future generations,” the article says.
“University campuses bring together a range of people, including students and hospitality, academic, and professional staff, and are composed of a range of facilities that include food and beverage services.
“Furthermore, worldwide hundreds of millions of students enrol in university annually. Therefore, these settings can be viewed as microcosms of society that present opportunities to implement the kinds of changes that people might wish to see in the wider community.”