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  • Writer's pictureMariia Chubareva

Bring Your Own Cup, Save the Environment

Single-use cups have been missing from universities for a month now. Students point out inconveniences caused by the new regulations implemented within the European Single Use Plastics (SUP) directive.


Cafeteria at the Academy Building of the University of Groningen
Cafeteria at the Academy Building of the University of Groningen © Mariia Chubareva

In an aim to lower the environmental impact of disposable plastic, the EU has decided to prohibit single-use plastic cups in various venues, including universities. Since January 1st, 2024, the universities in Groningen have removed all disposable cups from coffee machines and cafeterias and implemented the 'Bring your own cup' policy.


Although students have been adjusting to the waste-less reality for a month now, they still feel annoyed when they are forced to buy a plastic cup in case they forget their own. “I am very forgetful and always in a rush, so it has happened to me that I forgot my cup. It’s sad that if I want a coffee, I need to spend more money on it, because as a student it’s kind of expensive. At the end of the day, you’re just spending more money and wasting more plastic,” says Valeria, a Marketing Management student at Hanze University.


Ilse, who studies History at the University of Groningen, is concerned that external companies are profiting from selling plastic cups at universities. “They are just making money out of students,” she says.

Those who do remember to bring their reusable cups face the challenge of cleaning them since universities generally don’t have cleaning facilities for students. “It’s inconvenient, especially, if you drink a lot of coffee. It would be nice for Hanze to provide places to clean the cups so that we could actually reuse them,” says Valeria.


Abandoned disposable cup at the Harmonie Building of the University of Groningen
Abandoned disposable cup at the Harmonie Building of the University of Groningen © Mariia Chubareva

Still, most students welcome the change. Jette, a Film student at the University of Groningen, believes that people must eventually adjust to the new policy. “It is a necessary step that sooner or later should have happened anyway,” she says.

Strive for a Better (Waste-free) Future

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management reported that the Dutch throw away approximately 19 million disposable cups containing plastic every day. The new cup policy should, therefore, contribute to reducing the use of disposable plastic cups and containers “in the Netherlands by 40 percent by 2026."


In fact, a survey by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has shown that 56% of Dutch people actually prefer using their own reusable cups.

Indeed, compared to the beginning of January, more people now bring their own cups to university. Kars van der Ploeg (24), a cafeteria worker at the Academy Building of the University of Groningen, encountered a lot of customer complaints at the beginning of the year. He estimates that it will take a semester for everyone to fully adjust to the new regulations, which he believes is quite fast. “It is working and we do see that everyone is adapting way better now,” says van der Ploeg.

Despite the inconvenience, students largely recognize the importance of this initiative. Valeria tells The Groninger that she is excited about the new policy. “I hope people stick to it, and it will not just be an experiment that goes away eventually. I really hope it stays this way. It’s better for everyone to be more conscious about the environment,” she says.


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