Too many customers are put off using recyclable cups because they feel it reduces the convenience of having takeaway coffee, according to an industry expert.

Dr Jennifer Ferreira, a senior research assistant at the University’s Centre for Business in Society, believes the government and small businesses will be vital in changing people’s perception of plastic waste, while also increasing the use of reusable coffee cups.

She said: “Reusable cups do not seem to have taken on the popularity as seen with reusable carrier bags partly because the cups need to be washed, and some consumers don’t want to have a used coffee cup in their bag for the rest of the day. Government policy could be an important spark for a behaviour change, but in order for a significant reduction to take place there needs to be collective consumer action too.

“The change in people’s behaviour needed has to go beyond when people grab their coffee on the go in town. A lot of disposable cups are thrown away from offices, and events where tea and coffee are served at meetings and conferences. If people are in the habit of drinking tea and coffee out of the home, then they should be encouraged to carry a reusable cup more regularly.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in yesterday’s (Wednesday) Budget that the government would investigate how the tax system and charges on single-use plastic items could reduce waste.

Ferreira suggested that, while a tax on the use of throwaway plastic cups may help instigate this change, it might not have the same affect as the 5p plastic bag charge.

It is estimated that seven million disposable coffee cups are thrown away each day in the UK, with most ending up in landfill sites because they are difficult to recycle.

Ferreira’s next research project will explore how the coffee shop industry in the UK and Germany has already persuaded people to use reusable cups and what can be done to encourage more usage in the future.

She added: “We still don’t know how to get people to make this change. Incentives for reusable cups have been in place for quite some time with limited success in some places, it may be that a tax on plastic cups would make coffee expensive enough to make people think.”