Coffee Cup Campaign

Staying in? Order Reusable!

Many people use disposable cups for drinking hot drinks while sitting in a coffee shop, despite the fact that they are considered a ‘take-away’ item. This creates a huge amount of unnecessary waste. Disposable paper coffee cups are made from paper and a layer of plastic to make the cup waterproof. This lining makes them difficult (but not impossible) to recycle, and there is no easy collection system for recycling these cups. Hong Kong landfills are filling up quickly so we should not be adding to them with unnecessary waste. To better understand the extent of the problem, Plastic Free Seas undertook research, asking the public to help survey people’s use of cups in coffee shops across Hong Kong, at different times of the day and at different locations. This research took place pre-Covid 19.

Survey* Results

67% of customers use disposable cups

for drinking hot drinks

while sitting in coffee shops!

Campaign Purpose


Based on the survey results, PFS created a three-pronged campaign to reduce the volume of waste created by customers using disposables for hot drinks while sitting in coffee shops, as follows:

1. Encouraging individuals to stop using disposable cups for hot drinks while sitting in a coffee shop through social media

2. Writing letters to all coffee shops surveyed to let them know the results of the survey, recommending ways to help solve the problem and asking how they plan to address this issue

3. Informing the government of the survey results and asking them to pass legislation to ban the use of disposables in coffee shops for dine in.

* 7,792 people were surveyed, across 223 coffee shops over 522 visits. Whether they used a to-stay cup, a disposable cup or their own cup for a hot drink was recorded.

This Unnecessary Waste Can Be Avoided!

Take Action: Individuals

What Can You Do As A Consumer?

1. Avoid coffee shops that don’t provide reusable cups

2. Always ask for a reusable cup

3. Bring your own reusable cup

4. Share this message from Plastic Free Seas through social media

5. Read up on the new Public Consultation on tableware in HK. Government is proposing regulation for catering operations and is asking for the public’s feedback. Use the form provided within the Public Consultation paper to let them know that what you think. Your voice will make a difference! But we can’t wait for future legislation – we need everyone to act now. Only use reusables when you sit in a coffee shop

6. Write to coffee shops to ask them to stop using single-use cups for customers who are staying in. (See letter templates below)

What else can you do?

1. Share our FB and IG posts
2. Update your FB profile with our profile frame to show your support. 

Copy one of these templates to write a letter to a coffee shop, or create your own

Dear Coffee Shop name,

In 2019, over 11,000 tonnes of waste went to landfill every day in Hong Kong. We are creating too much waste, and much of it is unnecessary.

I went to your coffee shop located at location on date at around time and noticed that many people were sitting in your coffee shop drinking hot drinks out of disposable cups. This creates unnecessary waste and I would like to recommend a few things you can do to change this.

1. ensure your staff are asking people if they are to-stay or take-away and only give to people who are taking away
2. stop opening in locations where you cannot provide to-stay cups
3. offer an incentive for people to bring their own reusable cup
4. advertise the incentive where everyone can easily see it

Best regards,

Dear Coffee Shop name,

I went to your coffee shop located at location on date at around time and I was not asked whether I was staying in or taking away my beverage, and was given a disposable cup even though I was staying in. It is important that the staff ask all customers so that you can avoid creating waste unnecessarily by providing disposable cups to people who are staying in. If the customer does not specify, it would be helpful if the default cup  is reusable, not disposable.

I hope that you will take the above into consideration. For now, I will choose where I buy my coffee based on whether the company is prioritising the environment by reducing the amount of unnecessary waste they create. I look forward to seeing a change at your coffee shop.

Best regards,

Take Action: Companies 

What Can the Coffee Shops Do?

1. Train staff to ask whether the customer is staying in or taking away, and the default if the customer doesn’t specify should be a to-stay cup
2. Offer incentives to customers to bring their own reusable cup
3. Advertise the incentive well so that customers know about it
4. Stop opening shops in locations where you are unable to wash reusable cups


Coffee shops should not wait for future legislation but should start making changes as soon as possible.

Contact-free BYO Cup System

Due to hygiene concerns during Covid-19, many coffee shops stopped accepting customers reusable cups, and some also stopped using reusables in-house, drastically increasing the amount of waste they created through their business activities. There are ways to ensure the safety of both customers and staff with a ‘contact-free’ or ‘no-touch’ system for handling customers’ take-away cups. 

1. Wash hands and surfaces regularly.

2. The customer puts their reusable cup on a tray and passes the tray to the staff.

3. The staff pours the coffee into an in-house reusable cup and then pours it into the customer’s cup, without touching the customer’s cup. Next the staff pours the milk into an in-house reusable cup which is then transferred into the customer’s cup. The staff offers the customer their cup from the tray.


If your favourite coffee shop won’t accept your cup, ask them to try the ‘contact-free’ BYO cup system!

Take Action:  Government

What Can Government Do?

1.  Ban the use of disposable tableware for dine-in service in catering establishments
2. Ensure that coffee shops offer reusable cups through the food and beverage licensing system

Social Media Campaign

Check it out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn

LIke, Comment and Share, Share, Share!

Catching up with a friend? Make your coffee as sustainable as your friendship! A proper coffee deserves a proper cuppa!

Most disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic making them hard to recycle, and they won’t biodegrade.

Sitting down for a break?

Value your coffee as much as you do your time.

Choosing a disposable cup for your coffee break creates a huge amount of waste headed straight for landfill as it often comes with a lid, stirrer and sleeve.

Negotiating deals over coffee today? Treat your coffee as well as you treat your clients.
Staying in? Order reusable!
On average a professional attending three meetings per week in a coffee shop will throw away 150 disposable coffee cups per year.
Great coffee is about pleasure, not waste.                          
Indulge all your senses with a proper cuppa!
If only 1% of HK’s population uses one disposable cup/day, over 27 million cups are wasted every year. 27 million cups would stretch from HK to Kathmandu!
Great coffee is about craftsmanship, not waste. A proper coffee deserves a proper cuppa!
What will your next order be? With limited space for additional waste, we must act now to reduce the waste we produce. Every cup counts!
67% of people drinking hot beverages in a coffee shop use disposable coffee cups. Why take part in this unnecessary practice when you can be part of the solution instead?
The solution is in your hands. Be part of the solution. Order reusable or bring your own cup.


Did You Know?

In 2019, 200 tonnes of plastic tableware was sent to landfill in Hong Kong.

Did You Know?

67% of people are using disposable cups for their hot drinks while SITTING in a coffee shop, based on a pre-Covid survey. What a waste!