South Western Rail­way re­lents and al­lows use of re­us­able cups

The Guardian Australia - - Environment - Re­becca Smithers Con­sumer af­fairs cor­re­spon­dent

A rail op­er­a­tor has done a U-turn and agreed to let pas­sen­gers use their own re­us­able cups for hot drinks bought on board its trains af­ter crit­i­cism by en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paigner Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall.

South Western Rail­way changed its pol­icy af­ter the chef com­plained on Twit­ter dur­ing a jour­ney that buf­fet car staff – em­ployed by cater­ing com­pany Rail Gourmet – had “re­fused” to pour tea into his re­fill­able cup.

Twit­ter users fu­elled the row by ques­tion­ing the com­pany’s pol­icy, amid mount­ing con­cerns over the overuse and scale of wastage from sin­gle-use dis­pos­able cups and their im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

It is es­ti­mated that about 2.5bn dis­pos­able cof­fee cups are used in the UK each year. Although poly-coated pa­per cups are tech­ni­cally re­cy­clable, few fa­cil­i­ties are ca­pa­ble of do­ing so. This means that most end up in land­fill, cre­at­ing about 25,000 tonnes of waste each year. Half a mil­lion are thrown away each day in the UK but just one in 400 are re­cy­cled.

The cam­paigner – who re­vealed the vast scale of waste from cof­fee cups in his War on Waste TV pro­gramme in May 2016 – claimed he was told it was “com­pany pol­icy” to only of­fer dis­pos­able cof­fee cups – which can­not en­tirely be re­cy­cled.

On Twit­ter, the com­pany apol­o­gised to the celebrity chef and said there was a “safety as­pect” in­volved in the de­ci­sion.

A spokesman for South Western Rail­way con­firmed the change in pol­icy: “We have been dis­cussing the use of cus­tomers’ cups with our cater­ing con­trac­tor, Rail Gourmet, for some time. We have now agreed that cus­tomers’ own cups can be used on­board our ser­vices for hot drinks. This will be im­ple­mented on­board as soon as pos­si­ble. This re­flects our on­go­ing com­mit­ment to man­age our en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.”

Mean­while, other rail oper­a­tors, in­clud­ing Greater An­glia, are up­dat­ing their poli­cies and ma­chines to cater for the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of re­fill­able cups.

A spokes­woman for Greater An­glia said: “Cus­tomers can use their own cups for tea and mi­cro-ground cof­fee and re­ceive a 20p dis­count. Drinks which re­quire the cof­fee ma­chine (lat­tes, cap­puc­ci­nos etc) can not cur­rently be served in cus­tomers’ re­fill­able cups as a ma­jor­ity do not fit un­der the ma­chine. We are re­plac­ing ev­ery train in our fleet with a brand new one. When the new trains ar­rive, all hot drinks can be served in re­fill­able cups.”

Pho­to­graph: Keep­Cup

South Western Rail­way said its new pol­icy for use of cus­tomers’ own cups would be im­ple­mented ‘as soon as pos­si­ble’.

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