Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Charging more for coffee would reduce waste

Many coffee shops such as Costa and Starbucks offer 25p discounts if you use a re-usable cup.

And that’s a great advance in reducing the number sent to landfill sites.

However researchers at Cardiff University have found that offering this discount had no effect.

But charging an additional 25p per cup increased the usage of re-useable cups by 3.4%

And if you displayed environmentally friendly messages and provided some free re-useable cups the use of such cups increased by 12%.

This is a good demonstration of behavioural economics. People are more sensitive to losses than gains when making decisions. Charging 25p more is seen as a loss and people are more sensitive to that than saving the same amount.

If we really want to change a customer’s behaviour then a charge on a disposable cup is more likely to be effective” said the author of the research report.

Many people might find it difficult to remember to take a re-useable cup with them. I have one in my car but hardly ever use even when visiting Costa at my local Tesco (partly because I don’t think Cappuccino travels well).

Last year Starbucks temporarily doubled the discount to 50p but it only increased the use of re-useable cups by 0.2% up to 1.2%.

After the success of charging people for plastic bags in shops it’s worth considering a similar move with coffee cups.

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5p plastic bag tax has been effective

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Retailers in England moaned about having to charge customers 5p for single-use plastic bags and the government dragged its feet.

P1030059The good news is that since introducing the tax the number of bags in use has fallen by 85% or six billion.

That’s a lot of bags, almost 100 for every one in the UK.

The money raised by the tax goes to charitable causes. Most are environmental projects but some supermarkets have committed to help dementia research at UCL.

Some supermarkets give all the money less VAT to to charity while others make deductions

Overall the scheme has succeeded in producing benefits to wild life and the environment.

England might have come late to the party – long after countries like Denmark, Brazil, China, Mexico, Morocco, sub-saharan African states, Ireland, Wales and Scotland  – but it made good in the end.

Now let’s tackle plastic micro-beads!

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