Refill Guide for Events: Frequently Asked Questions

Are you an event manager considering adopting a reusable scheme for your event or a Refill Scheme or individual lobbying locally for change?

If you have read the guide and your question has not been answered, then these FAQ’s may solve your query. These questions were compiled following our launch of the guide and questions raised by Refill Schemes. If you have a question that is not answered here or in the guide, then please get in touch.

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Is it a conflict of interest for plastic free and refill-led groups to be using plastic polypropylene as the preferred choice for reusable cups at events?

We completely understand this conundrum! At City to Sea our focus is on reducing single-use plastics and ultimately stop plastic polluting our oceans.

City to Sea campaigns to address single-use plastic and other materials that are false solutions by championing the waste heirarchy and reducing waste and environmental impacts. Reusable plastics can be used for hundreds of washes, so reduce the production of plastics and the associated carbon impacts.

The events industry and cup suppliers have done a lot of work to find the most suitable material for the job. Polypropylene plastic (no.5) is this material currently most widely used as it is more malleable than other hard plastics so, it can tolerate being stood on, dropped and therefore is less likely to shatter and become a single-use cup. 

Are there any non-plastic options available?

In terms of other non-plastic materials these are the challenges:

  • Aluminium requires a plastic coating, to prevent rusting, so it can’t be washed at high temperatures as the plastic lining will come off. This means aluminium is being used for single-use event cups. Aluminium also has a higher carbon footprint than plastic.
  • Stainless steel cups had been developed but due to the costs of production and subsequent charges required they didn’t get taken on by hire companies. And in 2022, the company producing them has had to stop due to the rising costs of steel.
  • Glass can’t be used at outdoor events or stadium events due to health and safety
Are there reusable cups made out of recycled plastic?

Currently no. This is due the challenge of making sure the plastic is grade and clear plastic.

A cup provider also advised that “if we use recycled food grade plastic we can not guarantee the cup will be clear, as any colour in the recycled plastic will contaminate the colour and you will end up with coloured cup.”.




Are reusable cups manufactured in the UK?

One cup manufacturer we spoke to had tried a UK supplier and had difficulty with the quality and quantity. They now use a factory in Northern France which can produce more cups a minute, so the production uses less energy.

Are there any metal or steel reusable cups manufactured and available in the UK?

There were steel reusable pint cups produced in factory in Birmingham, and the City to Sea team had a stock of them that we bought for small events we hosted, back in 2018.

Sadly due to the rising cost of steel, and the challenges caused by the pandemic for the events industry, the factory is not manufacturing in 2022. 

If we have lots of different food & beverage retailers or multiple bar companies at an event, how should cups be managed?

The cups would be signed out to each organisation or bar manager, keeping a record of how many they took. At the end of the event the organisation or bar manager would be required to bring back any leftover cups, dirties and all the levy’s or deposits they have taken. This amount should be equivalent to the cups signed out.  

What upfront costs do event organisers have to pay when hiring in cups?

This will depend on the hire company, but invariably event organisers will need to pay the hire cost. After the event they will pay for all the cups that are not returned and the washing of those that are returned.

When is the best time to approach festival organisers to adopt reusable cup schemes?

Event organisers need as much time as possible to adopt new processes, like reusable cup schemes. If they have a third-party bar management company, they will need to build the management of the scheme into their discussions and contract. Talking to summer festivals in the winter months is advisable.

How can events manage the security of cash and cups which have a value in a deposit-return scheme?

With a deposit return scheme, the cups have a transactional value so they potentially could be stolen and deposits reclaimed for these cups. Additional security needs to be considered for an area where deposits are issued unless it is within a bar that already has a level of security. The easiest way to overcome these challenges is to operate a levy scheme where customers pay a one-off charge and do not get a refund back.

Is additional resource required to manage a cup scheme?

Yes, a member(s) of staff needs to check in the cup boxes on arrival and count them out on departure so the numbers that the cup hire company claim are verified before leaving site.

If there are multiple bars on site, it will also be necessary to sign cups in and out.

This additional resource could be someone in the bars team. It is also worth noting that the benefit of reusable cups is that an event should save money on waste management and littering costs, so the additional role could be funded from this.