Ditching single-use cups for the love of Papatūānuku

From 14 February, the campus cafés at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington are ditching single-use cups for a greener option.

three girls taking selfie with reusable coffee cups
Campus cafés Vic Books, Louis’ Takeaway Café, Wishbone, The Lab, Milk and Honey, and The Hunter Lounge have made the commitment not to use disposable cups. Staff and students wanting their morning fix will have the option of using their own reusable cups, making time to ‘have here’ in a ceramic cup, or borrowing a cup from the University’s cup library system, Auraki.

“The customers of our campus cafes use thousands of disposable cups each week. By trialling a phase-out of disposable cups, and offering and encouraging alternatives, the University aims to make it easier for staff and students to support sustainable coffee habits,” says director of sustainability, Andrew Wilks.

The University’s sustainability team established the Auraki system in 2020. Each café has a supply of mugs that students and staff can choose to have their drink order made into. They can then take the mug anywhere on campus—returning it later to one of the many drop-off points around campus.

Most of the mugs were donated by Trash Palace—the reuse shop at Porirua’s Spicer landfill. “Our team collect and wash the mugs, put the official Auraki sticker on them, then deliver them to the cafés, who sterilise them before and after each use,” says sustainability team member and project lead, Amanda Cunningham.

The Auraki system is well-used in the University community already.

“The fact Auraki is already up and running definitely makes it easier for us to go single-use cup free. It means we have cups we can give to people to take away if they forget their own cup—so no one has to go without a coffee,” says Rosh Evison, manager of Louis’ Takeaway Café.

To ensure the initiative does not negatively impact on customers who need a lid on their cup to drink safely, the cafes each have a behind-the-counter supply of reusable cups with lids for accessible ‘have here’ drinks options.

“We’re taking this step because it’s the right thing to do and because our staff feel better championing reusables than handing out throwaway cups. New Zealanders send hundreds of millions of disposable cups to landfill every year, and we want to help show everyone how easy it can be to change that,” says Jessica Godfrey, general manager of Vic Books café.

The initiative, which is being supported by external organisation Takeaway Throwaways, is part of the University’s wider efforts to reduce waste and emissions as it works towards its net zero carbon by 2030 commitments.

Find out more about the University’s sustainability programme.

Find out more about Takeaway Throwaways.

Video promoting the initiative.