The Silent Invasion of the Exchange Cup…

2 weeks into term and everything looks just as I am so used to being a year 2 OAP at the University of Bath. The lake, just as beautiful as ever with our beloved ducks, freshers repping their secondary schools with the brand new super exclusive 22 leavers hoodie and the comforting sights of the bus stop queue going all the way up to the mech eng building. But one thing that has left me slightly baffled and unsure how to feel are the brand new Exchange Cups, which seem to have appeared out of nowhere, and yet, are simply everywhere.

For those of you who may have been living under a rock and haven’t seen the blinding sight of the exchange cup with it’s bright orange lid, essentially it is a brand new scheme to encourage us on campus to go green and stop using single use plastics. For just £3.00 on top of your coffee, which already costs £3.00, you can purchase a reusable cup which enables you to get hot drinks from any outlet on campus. Unfortunately, without said cup and if one is unwilling to pay around £6.00 for the cup and drink you will simply be refused your caffeine fix- that is unless you are willing to walk around campus with a mug. Personally I think a silent revolution of mugs on campus would be a unique feature at our University and I can already imagine ‘cheersing’ fellow peers at lectures and seminars like I would do over pints at the brewhouse. However, unless this becomes the norm I doubt anyone other than the few girlies who are so obsessed with ‘not being like the other girls’ will hop on carrying mugs around in order to avoid sheer embarrassment if not anything else. 

So what are my thoughts? To preface obviously I am a big fan of the environment and saving it- good job to whoever introduced this policy, stay slaying. HOWEVER, there are a few issues I have. 

  1. WHO designed this cup?! The black and bright orange, although apt at this time of year just before halloween, is not the sleekest design. Particularly not with the white X for exchanged plastered on it. 
  2. A comment from a meagre SU worker has stated that the cups are rather difficult to clean. Personally I fail to see how much harder they could be to wash than a mug but power to the people so I have included this point. 

Despite this, credit has to be given where credit is due. The ingenuity of this scheme is particularly clear with the use of ‘tokens’. In order for the typical Bath Uni student not to be burdened with the heavy weight of carrying this cup onto campus and back down every day you are able to ‘EXCHANGE’ (😉) an empty cup for a token at the till which enables you to get a new cup the next time you buy your coffee for no extra cost. Furthermore, due to my hate of the cup I have scoured through amazon and the city center to find my own cup with a more pleasant design but have found nothing that retails for less than 10 great British pounds. And so, despite my complaining further up in this column the £3.00 must be considered a bargain. 

As well as this, the environmental impact has to be considered. According to a study conducted by Packaging Europe only 17% of people use a reusable cup every time they go out. Furthermore, currently only 1% of disposable cups are recycled. This is because although we are all accustomed to the common paper cup it turns out that in order to prevent coffee leaking through, the interior is laminated with a plastic lining which makes it waterproof. This lining must then be separated from the paper to be recycled, making the process much more difficult and costly and therefore leading to them often ending up in landfill. By essentially taking away freedom of choice the University are reducing a lot of plastic waste and ensuring the Bath landfill sights are a little bit emptier than they otherwise would have been. The true climate advocates may argue that the environmental impact made by the shift away from plastic cups is counteracted by the increased water consumption needed to wash the reusable ones. 

All in all, before I started writing this column I had no idea I had this much to say about the exchange cups that have taken over campus. In theory it is a good idea and perhaps the absence of original thinking creates a sense of unity between us students but the efficacy of this scheme for the environment is arguable- although of course it is always better than doing nothing. 

That’s all from me (finally),

Amy 

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