Developing a Circular Cup System at Schiphol Airport

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The global shift towards sustainability has spotlighted the environmental implications of disposable takeaway coffee cups, particularly their contribution to landfill waste and ocean pollution. This report delves into the pressing challenge of reducing disposable cup waste at Schiphol Airport, especially in light of the impending Dutch regulations effective from 1 January 2024, which prohibit establishments from offering disposable plastic cups for on-site consumption.

Through comprehensive literature review and desktop research, I explored potential market alternatives, analyzing them from regulatory, business, consumer, and sustainability perspectives. My findings suggest that polypropylene (PP) cups are emerging as a preferred alternative to disposable paper cups after considering various factors.

Observations at Schiphol Airport and interviews with passengers provided insights into their preferences and perceived challenges regarding sustainable cup solutions. While there's a general preference for lightweight, portable, and easy-to-dispose cups, some concerns have emerged regarding the cleanliness and hygiene of reusable cups made from new materials, as well as the inconvenience of bringing personal cups to the airport.Stakeholder interviews highlighted challenges they face due to the new regulations, such as limited kitchen space for washing, concerns about brand experience, increased workload for cleaning companies due to improper disposal, and the difficulty of finding a one-size-fits-all solution.

In response to these challenges and insights, I propose a new service system, "Cupmates: Journey to a Zero-Waste Future." This system introduces reusable PP cups, complemented by branded sleeves for various shops, ensuring brand experience. Passengers pay a deposit for the cup and lid, which is refunded upon returning the used items to smart return box equipped with an electronic payment system. An optional QR code provides users with more information about the Cupmates service. The backend process involves a centralized collection, in-airport dishwasher cleaning, and redistribution for the cups.

Feedback from potential users and key stakeholders suggests that this solution is both feasible and viable for airport implementation and satisfactory for passengers. The report also offers recommendations for implementation, ensuring a smooth transition to a more sustainable future at Schiphol Airport. This project offers a possible solution for Schiphol Airport to address the challenges of single-use plastics and transition towards a more sustainable operational model.