A number of coffee shops and cafes in Greater Newburyport are offering patrons discounts or lower prices if they bring their own reusable coffee cups instead of using the stores’ disposable ones.

This trend has been around for a while with Starbucks offering its first reusable cup discount in 1985. But with an estimated 16 billion disposable coffee cups used each year, according to the Earth Day Network, local cafes are increasingly making an effort to accommodate reusable cups.

While the disposable cups used at shops such as Starbucks are termed “paper cups,” they actually contain a mixture of paper and plastic that makes them extremely difficult to recycle, according to a CNN report. In most cases, the cups end up in a landfill.

The prevalence of plastic is “something that we have to change,” said Conrad Willeman, a member of the sustainability group Transition Newburyport. “Every little thing counts.”

Some shops, including Newburyport’s Changing Tides, now use more expensive compostable cups to avoid putting more plastic in landfills. But reusable cups still further prevent unnecessary waste.

At Starbucks, customers will receive a 10-cent discount if they bring their own cup, while at Commune, Plum Island Coffee Roasters and Souffles, customers will be charged for a small no matter what size they order. At The Coffee Factory, patrons receive a 15 percent discount if they bring their own cup.

And other shops are perfectly willing to fill customers’ reusable cups — employees told a Daily News reporter — though they may not offer discounts.

Along with other recently popularized ways of being more sustainable such as ditching plastic straws, bringing a reusable cup is a quick and easy way to reduce plastic use and keep an item out of a landfill. But reusable cups are only a starting point, according to Willeman.

“Shops giving you a deal on reusable cups is a baby step,” he said. “Important, but not enough.”

Willeman emphasized that large-scale, systemic changes in the economy and how humans interact with their surroundings are necessary for Greater Newburyport and the world to become more sustainable, fight climate change, and be more resilient. But small, local measures can help, he said.

 

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