Problem: At KPMG, we are big coffee drinkers. Last year we identified that 1,800 – 2,000 single use coffee cups were being used every week by our internal cafe in the Melbourne office. All were going to landfill. Alongside the coffee being consumed in our other offices, it was more than 250,000 single use cups being used every year.
Waste is part of the human cycle. Repeatable, automatic behaviour that happens without thought. The challenge is to change that cycle and introduce new behaviour that, in time, becomes automatic Disposable cups are designed for single-use only and are often disposed of incorrectly and the key contaminant of our recyclable waste. By eliminating the need for single use cups altogether, we could reduce an enormous amount of waste. Most importantly, this change would invite discussion around waste, and encourage people to think about how they could reduce their consumption of single-use items.
Our aim was to reach ‘cup zero’ by removing all single use cups from our internal cafes and kitchens by providing a reusable alternative. Figuring out how to do this was another story.
This is how we actioned the change and is one which any business could replicate.
Identify key champions/ stakeholders to drive the change
Our Corporate Citizenship Committee in Melbourne, made up of volunteers from the business who are passionate about social impact, raised the idea of going cup zero and listened to feedback from the business. They then engaged a key champion, Gerry Connell, who oversees our workplace supply chain in Hospitality to help drive the change.
Evaluate the culture of your business and spec a solution
In 2018 we trialled a ‘No Cup Day’ where people had to take a mug instead of a disposable cup. While the majority of people thought it was a great idea, a smaller margin were perplexed about what was going on. Hosting the day was enough to rally support for a more sustainable approach.
At the start of this year, a mug library was introduced in Melbourne and single use cups were completely removed. The mugs go into the dishwasher and are then returned clean to the café, taking the responsibility of bringing a cup for every purchase away. The pushback from the change was minimal, and the change allowed us to refine the system in our other offices.
In Sydney, the Huskee Cup, made from repurposed coffee husks, was sourced and a similar reusable system was introduced in-house. These cups are almost the exact same as their disposable brother, so the process of making coffee doesn’t change. It has the ‘sexy’ factor which consumers like, and the system is convenient for people who just drop the Huskees off in dishwashers and kitchens which are then ferried back to the café.
Finally, tell everyone what to expect, tell them again and then try telling them another way. The coffee cup pyramid said it all – a visual reminder of what the change really meant. Our transition to being cup zero meant we were no longer creating 4.2 tonnes of waste every year (138 pyramids of single use cups like the below)!
One change to behaviour removed a key contaminant from our recycling bins. Our workplace is more sustainable because of it, and each time we handle a Huskee we are reminded that small changes can drive big impact.