Campus reporter Christina Kordes discusses the Green Office’s attempt at the implementation of the Billie Cup – a reusable polyester cup that helps combat disposable waste.
Roughly 100,000 to 120,000 disposable coffee cups are used at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) by students and staff each month. That accounts, on average, for 2.1 cups per person on a daily basis. All of these cups are thrown away right after being used. In order to remedy this, the UvA Green Office has launched a project for a deposit system utilizing reusable cups.
The Billie Cup is made out of reusable polyester; it comes in three sizes and is dishwasher safe. “The system is really easy to use”, says Helena from the Green Office. To make use of a Billie Cup, the customer simply goes into a participating cafe and pays a one euro deposit to get their beverage in a Billie Cup. After they are finished with it, they can take it back to the same cafe or another one that is part of the system. There, they can either exchange it for a fresh cup or get their one euro deposit back. Since many places in the Netherlands are cashless, the cafes can also use Billie Coins, which will be given back to the cafe together with the cup. In this way, the customer does not pay any extra for the Billie Cup and no waste is produced in the process. The system has already been widely adopted in Belgium and, for example, at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “Wageningen is fully committed to the Billie Cup and we thought it is easier to convince UvA to join in the project when they see that it is working somewhere else”, says Helena. The initial idea for the project started two years ago but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the Green Office postponed the start of it until now.
The Green Office launched the Billie Cup on March 1 in the Eetcafé Oerknal at Science Park. Both the responsible members from the Green Office, as well as Tom de Beurs, Manager of Oerknal, were really happy with the launch day. “We do not get a lot of to-go customers but the ones that come really like the concept”, says Tom about his experience after the first few weeks with the Billie Cup. “Since we belong to USC, we get a lot of students and sport-minded people. I think these customers like to be green.” Because the Billie Cups can be returned to any participating cafe, the more places take part the easier it gets for the customer. After a few weeks of using the Billie Cups, Tom is hoping that more and more places jump onto the project: “The change was really easy to implement, the communication was good and it really does make a difference for the environment.”
After the successful implementation at the Eetcafé Oerknal, the Green Office is trying to implement the system at the UvA cafeterias as well. Helena said that “there is a lot of hesitation in the beginning from the University, which is understandable because they are worried about washing facilities and putting more workload onto the cafeteria staff.” However, now that they have one participating cafe, the Green Office hopes that this creates momentum and that more cafes join in.
Minji from the Green Office is very hopeful for a more sustainable future at the UvA: “We are trying our best to be more sustainable and raise awareness. This is a small step but we try to accumulate those little steps to big change. Ideally the Green Office can act as the foot in the door for the Billie Cup in Amsterdam and help them establish themselves in the city.” To do so, the Green Office is in close contact with Tom from Eetcafé Oerknal and Wageningen University to exchange experiences and improve their concept to get more and more places on board.
The Green Office’s effort to reduce waste does not stop with the cup deposit system. They also offer a cutlery rental system. Any student or student organization that is planning a party or bigger event can rent plates, glasses and cutlery at the Green Office for free instead of buying disposable plastic cups and plates. The items can be rented online and be picked up at the Green Office.