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Greenpeace report highlights disposable coffee cup waste in Japan

The environmental group says more action is needed from coffee chains and governments to tackle single-use waste, with a new report estimating that approximately 91,000 disposable coffee cups are discarded every hour in Japan

Greenpeace Japan has called on businesses and governments to do more to tackle disposable coffee cup waste | Photo credit: Jasmin Sessler

Nine major coffee chains served approximately 370 million disposable cups in Japan in 2020 alone, according to a new Greenpeace Japan report.
The environmental group said its findings were based on surveys sent to Starbucks, Tully's Coffee, Pronto, Doutor, Caffe Veloce, Excelsior Caffe, Ueshima Coffee House, Cafe de Crie and Komeda, and highlighted the growing need for action to tackle single-use waste.
Greenpeace Japan estimates that Starbucks, the branded coffee chain market leader in Japan with more than 1,500 stores, sold 232 million single-use cups in 2020, followed by Tully’s Coffee’s 72.5 million and Pronto’s 35.3 million cups.
Around 91,000 single-use cups are thrown away every hour in Japan, the Greenpeace report estimates.
“With most of them being incinerated, or, in the worst case, improperly disposed into the environment, combined action from the café sector and the government is urgently needed to end the flood of single-use cups and transition towards a system based on the mantra of ‘reduce, reuse, and refill,'” the report said.
In July 2022 the environmental group highlighted that Hong Kong residents discard around 400 million single-use coffee cups every year. The findings were based on a survey of more than 1,000 consumers and found that 37% of respondents regularly consume takeaway coffee, with just 3% using re-usable cups in-store.
Japan has a highly developed coffee shop culture, with World Coffee Portal data showing the market exceeds 8,000 branded café outlets.
Coffee chains are increasingly seeking ways to tackle single-use cup waste, particularly following the easing of Covid-19 trading restrictions that made takeaway coffee an operational necessity.
In March 2022, the world’s largest coffee chain, Starbucks, indicated it would shift away from disposable coffee cups across its 35,000+ stores. The Seattle-based coffee chain said customers will be able to use re-usable cups across its 17,000 stores in the US and Canada by 2023 and has trialled similar initiatives in the UK, France and Germany.

In the UK, Costa Coffee is trialling a reusable cup scheme at stores in Glasgow and could roll-out the initiative across its 2,700+ store portfolio.
Meanwhile, Canada’s A&W restaurant chain is trialling 100% compostable coffee cups at some of its 1,000+ stores.

Countries around the world are also taking steps to reduce takeaway coffee cup waste through legislation.
In February 2021 South Korea announced that coffee chains with 100 stores or more would be required to charge a refundable deposit for the use of single-use utensils, including coffee cups, plastic straws and stirrers
In April 2022, the Republic of Ireland approved legislation requiring operators to charge €0.20 ($0.22) for single-use cups in an effort to eliminate the 200 million discarded in the country every year.

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