Goodbye Disposable Cups

Trends / Sustainability
Plume Creative
Rebecca Rom-Frank
Jan 28, 2020
The climate is changing—and so is the way we drink.

Enter the reusable water bottle, to‑go coffee cup, and straw. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and materials—from clear glass to matte orange aluminum. As consumers become more concerned with environmental sustainability, they’re demanding that brands take a stand on the issue. As a result, reusable cups are starting to show up in our top‑selling lifestyle imagery.

Disposable coffee cups and plastic water bottles are emblems of an on‑the‑go lifestyle, but zero‑waste alternatives have evolved into an aspirational status symbol. Contestants on Love Island hydrate with personalized reusable water bottles, and a HydroFlask is an indispensable accessory to any Gen Z VSCO girl. Actress Jennifer Garner sips coffee from a KeepCup all over Hollywood, and US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio‑Cortez appeared on Instagram with her reusable to‑go mug. With high‑profile role models at the forefront, reusable cups are going mainstream.
Sure enough, at Getty Images, searches for “reusable coffee cup” have shot up +479% over the past year. “Reusable cup” is up +281%; “metal straw” is up +206%; and “reusable water bottle” is up +155%. With the rise of climate activism in the public eye, demand for zero‑waste themes in imagery is only expected to grow.

Many companies are already transitioning to sustainable business practices, especially in the beverage industry. Start‑ups such as the Coffee Cup Collective in Boston are testing out regional solutions, and, this year, third‑wave roaster BlueBottle is piloting a cup‑share program in two of its San Francisco stores. Larger chains such as Starbucks and Peet's offer 10‑cent discounts for customers who bring their own refillable cups. A business’s ability to close the loop and adopt a circular economy model is becoming crucial, and brands that achieve it will want to show it in their advertising.
Reusable to‑go cups or water bottles can visually convey that a brand is committed to sustainability.
While reducing cup pollution might seem like a drop in the bucket, soon, in some places, consumers won't have a choice. Plastic straws are already banned in major US cities such as Washington, D.C. and Seattle, and by April 2020, they’ll be banned throughout England. The entire European Union will wave goodbye to certain single‑use plastics by 2021. Recycling is expensive, labor‑intensive, and doesn’t always happen when it’s supposed to. After all, the only way to be 100% sure that a cup is reused... is to reuse it.

Eliminating single‑use plastics is now a widespread goal around the world, and imagery will need to reflect that in order to remain contemporary. Imagery with details such as reusable to‑go cups, water bottles, or straws can visually convey that a brand is committed to sustainability—and model a sustainable future.
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