Top Hospo Tips

Reuse, Refill, Reduce, Refuse – Some easy as ways to avoid or minimise single-use waste in hospitality.

There are four big offenders in the overpopulated world of single-use: Plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, plastic straws and plastic bags. Here are some suggestions of how to avoid or minimise them or their impacts.

Before we even begin, running trials, and making sure it is known, then asking for customer for their feedback is a great way to get your locals behind your sustainability initiatives from the start. This can help avoid customers feeling that they aren’t being considered at all. They are special to us. So is their planet. Letting them know that is why we are working to make changes can be the beginning of some wonderful collaborations.  

Single-use water bottles

Avoid: Don’t stock or sell them. Many of you offer free water to customers – glasses and water carafes placed in the café. We can go an extra step and offer to refill water flasks or bottles for all, customers and non-customers alike. UYOC give you the option to make this known on your listing.  

Avoid: Today, you can put up a sign letting locals and visitors know you will refill water bottles for free. Encourage customer responsibility. Give locals and visitors another reason to walk through your door. Kindness and common sense are tangible and saleable commodities in today's changing, conscious consumer climate.

Single-use take-out coffee & drinks cups

Avoid: And this will almost definitely be the way things go. Circular, no waste systems are springing up globally with huge success. So, you can begin your own ‘cup swap’ or cup library system. Or get in touch with UYOC and we can email information of the schemes that are already in existence in New Zealand, where you can purchase reusable stock, designed and branded for this purpose, and information on the best way to make it work for you. Some cafes prefer to act as lone wolves, implementing a system where their locals return the loaned cups to their café. Others choose to be part of a larger network, where the cup a customer takes from you can be returned to any café participating in the same scheme, and so on. We can help you find something that works for you.

Avoid: Don’t use them at all. Many cafes across New Zealand are deciding to just go without. And they are finding it works just fine for them. Some lose initial custom, but they report that new customers seel them out specifically because they have made this commitment, and it balances out. Contact us and we will put you in touch with UYOC businesses who have ditched disposables and are happy to share their experiences with you.

Avoid: Encourage customers to stay and drink in, or to adopt the very Italian style of drinking milk free and fast. Think about a ‘coffee bar’ area, with a dedicated barista, for customers who will come in, order an espresso, slam it, leave the change on the counter and then walk out. Use your social media to encourage this. Use signage. We love signage! Off discounts for in-house espresso slammers.

Minimise: Add a surcharge on to disposable cups. This can cover your stock costs as well as act as a deterrent to customers.

Minimise: Offer a discount to those who choose to bring reusables. This isn’t as effective as a surcharge but is gentler on the customer if we are trying to change a habit and mindset.

Minimise: Add a surcharge (perhaps 50c) but also give a discount (perhaps 20c). This is probably the most effective way to cajole customers financially into making the change.

Avoid: Sell reusable cups. UYOC can give you advice about pricing, environmental integrity, benefits of design and materials, and demographic appeal. Or give reusable vessels away – jam jars, peanut butter jars with attractive lids, coconut yoghurt jars with easy peel off labels – you know who we mean! Put them through the machine and offer them to customers through prominent display and signage. Great for coffees, juices and smoothies.

Single-use plastic straws

Avoid: Ditch them. Either be entirely straw free or have machine washable, metal, reusable straws for customer use. We can give you some info of stockists, easy peasy.

Avoid: Use hospo grade paper straws, ideally sourced from a stockist who does not also sell plastic straws. Remember that ‘eco biodegradable and compostable’ plant-based plastic straws have to be commercially composted to be ‘compostable’. If they make their way into our waters and oceans, they will bob around for many, many years, a menace to our wildlife and a bad look for green New Zealand. They will not break down by the side of the road or in a landfill into plant matter – they are just more landfill. They are not a green option.

Minimise: If you use paper straws or regular or plant-based plastic straws, do not give them out. Use signage to inform customers that straws are ‘on request’. This will reduce the amount of straws that you use, balancing out the extra cost of paper straws versus plastic straws. Some cafes have paper straws for sale, 50c, with proceeds donated to a local charity. Nice.

Avoid: Sell reusable straws to your customers. They make great gifts and at Christmas, all the cafes we know who stock them, sell out! Companies, like Caliwoods Eco, sell retail stands to cafes. These are countertops stands that contain several multi-packs of metal straws and cleaning brushes, that you can sell at a retail price. Guys like Forever Straw Co sell glamour metal straws in individual carry pouches. This puts the responsibility back with the customer. Also nice.

Plastic bags

Avoid: This is pretty much the best way to go. All plastic bags, including ‘compostable/biodegradable’ plastic bags are a hazard if they find their way into our waterways, and they invariably do. The alternative? As with all these initiatives, working with customers to create a feeling of shared responsibility is key. If you can afford to offer small discounts to take away customers who bring their own bags or takeout containers, do so, and shout about it! Social media loves this.

The power of the sign

Using a well placed and highly visible sign to communicate the options, initiatives and partnerships you offer your customers is so good. Not only does it deliver the information without putting staff in the ‘firing line’, it spreads the message to others in the industry. If they copy you, brilliant. We’re all in this together.

Some helpful signs can be downloaded from the UYOC website homepage (just hit the cloud), but I’ve yet to meet a barista who can’t also moonlight as a sign writer!





Over 500 billion take-out cups are used and thrown ‘away’ on our planet each and every year.

We need to shift from single-use food packaging and realise that when you throw something away, there is no actual "away".

Single-use plastic bags 2*, plastic drinks bottles 1*, plastic straws and disposable coffee cups are the 4 biggest contributors to the mountains of landfill, and floating islands of plastic that are clogging up our lands and oceans 3*. They are all avoidable. If we simply refuse single-use items manufacturers will stop making them. The market will drive the change. The consumer has the power. We can save ourselves money, and we can protect our planet, for ourselves and our future. The vital need to do this isn’t radical, Greenie Tree Hugger talk. This is a stark and frightening reality 4*.

Coffee-loving Kiwis use around 295 million disposable coffee cups every year.

It’s a big number. It’s almost too big to imagine. We like this little analogy – Imagine that your next-door neighbour has 2 takeout coffees a day, in disposable cups. They bring them home and chuck them over the fence into your garden. After one year, you’ll have 730 cups in your yard. And their partner and teenage daughter do the same. So that’s 2,190 cups. Then the neighbours form the other side start throwing their cups over the wall, and the folks who live over the back as well. That makes 6,570 cups a year.

It’s getting a little bit stinky now and it’s only been 1 year. The cups aren’t breaking down – they’re tough enough to withstand boiling water – rain doesn’t bother them none. And then the guys over the road, join in too, in fact the whole street is now chucking their cups into what was your gorgeous, precious, pristine, oh so loved backyard. You now have 470,850 take-out cups in your yard.

Friends and family decline your invitations for barbeques. Your kids don’t want to play out back. You’re thinking of moving, but where to go? What if the same thing happens at your new house? Hmmm.

Rewind and imagine you and your neighbours either have reusable cups or get up a little earlier each day to they have time to stay in the café and drink their coffees. There are no dirty coffee cups in your yard. Not a single one.

New Zealand is your backyard. We all need to stop chucking shit into it.

Take out coffee cups are rarely recycled and only rarely composted. 

The vast majority of single-use cups end up in landfill, and this includes plant-based cups that are marketed as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’. The infrastructure to compost these products, (to treat them at high and steady temperatures for a prolonged period of time) is virtually non-existent, at present, in most areas of New Zealand. In the big cities, where commercial composting facilities do exist, lack of infrastructure to collect and transport the cups and lids to the commercial plants is yet another reason why disposable cups are just handfuls of landfill.

What can we do to be responsible coffee drinkers?

Don't take away. Drink at the cafe.

If your work place is close to your café, take a regular mug from home. There is no need to buy more things when we can make do with what we have. Measure its capacity. Do you have a 6, 8 or 12oz (170ml, 235ml or 350ml)mug? Tell your barista.

Choose to use a purpose-bought reusable cup. We have to do this as a consistent habit for it to be effective. It has to be our routine. Buying a ‘keep cup’, using it for 12 weeks then leaving it in the back of the cupboard means we have not used it enough to make up for its production. 

Write to your local council and ask them what they are doing to collect and process ‘compostable’, ‘eco’ coffee cups. We need our local and national government to step up 5*. Encourage the manufacturers of compostable take-out cups to publicise the fact that they are only commercially compostable – this will help customers and cafes to stop believing they have done enough by purchasing these products. The time for Green-wash is over.

What can Café owners do to reduce the problem of disposable coffee cups?

The number 1 thing a café, or juice bar, or eatery can do is make it known that they are committed to reducing single-use waste. Join uyoc! Put up a sign. Stock and sell reusable cups. Charge for take-out coffee cups used for drinking in house. Charge for double-cupping. Raise and address the issue.

Many cafes offer a discount to customers who bring their own. This is great for the customer, of course, but is it sustainable in the long term for cafes? We hope to see a massive shift in consumer responsibility, in which case, charging for a disposable may be the better deterrent and more realistic economic plan?

Carrot or stick? 6* A recent BBC report suggests that people are far more sensitive to losses than to gains when making decisions – so if a café really wants to change a customer’s behaviour then a charge on a disposable cup is more likely to be effective. Some cafes in New Zealand are adding a 50c surcharge when folks use a take out cup rather than a choosing some kind of reusable cup or drinking in-house. They report this to be an effective deterrent and that they are attracting customers who choose to make the time to stay and have their coffee – increasing a sense of community and engaging with each other before they start their working day.

The hospitality industry can use its representative associations to put pressure on local authorities and national government to work with the manufacturers of plant-based, commercially compostable hot and cold packaging, like 7* ecoware and 8* innocent to make these products a truly green alternative. Talk to local waste companies – find out who does what and make your customers aware that if they throw a ‘compostable’ cup in the bin at work or in the street, the chances are it will definitely end up as landfill. Be open. Engage the industry. Start a dialogue with customers and each other.


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