can a cafe legally refuse reusables blog cover

Can A Cafe Refuse To Put My Drink in My Reusable Cup?

More and more of us are becoming aware of the huge environmental cost of disposable plastic. Plastic has a huge carbon cost. It ends up in our oceans and permeates every environment on earth. Once in the environment, it will remain there for hundreds of years, causing a massive problem for wildlife and ecosystems. Using a reusable cup is one great way to reduce the amount of plastic you use, and the amount of plastic waste you generate. But some people are worried about asking a cafe to use one. They ask: can a cafe refuse to put my drink in my reusable cup?


Is there a Legal Reason For Cafes to Refuse a Reusable Cup?

While there is no legal obligation for a cafe to accept your reusable cup, there is also no legal reason for them to refuse it. Some cafe workers may not be aware of this. They may believe that there will some some health and safety reason why they should not do so. But there are no food safety standards at all that would prevent the use of reusable cups. You can politely reassure the cafe workers that this is the case. Just fill them in in a friendly way, and tell them about the 500 billion disposable coffee cups that are produced globally each year – the majority of which end up in landfill. 


use a reusable mug to divert waste from landfills

If you drink coffee or tea everyday, one reusable mug can save 365 disposable takeaway cups from the bin. Here, we have an oat milk latte in our borosilicate Glass Coffee Cup.


Just Not the Norm?

Some cafes may be reluctant to take your reusable cup simply because it is not the norm. People can be resistant to change. For those of us who are at the leading edge of sustainable change, this can mean that we come up against some ill-informed people, and people who simply don't understand what we are doing. A cafe may refuse to put a drink in your reusable cup simply as an instinctive reaction to something new. 

While the cafe has every right to refuse to use your cup – it is important to remember that you have the power to change a mind. Kindly and politely explaining your reasoning for using a reusable cup may change their opinion on the matter. It is also important to remember that while they have the right to refuse service – you have a right to take your business elsewhere. And if they are intransigent in their refusal – this is exactly what you should do.Just walk away, and get your drink elsewhere. It may seem a little embarrassing at first. But if all of us voted with our feet, the world would become a better place. 


Ways To Increase Your Chances of Your Reusable Cup Being Accepted

While you cannot guarantee that everyone will be as forward thinking as you, there are certain things that you can do to increase the chances of your reusable cup being accepted:

  • Ask with a smile. (Simple politeness and a friendly smile can go a long way.)
  • If they look confused, explain your reasoning.
  • Keep your cup clean. (This may sound obvious, but no one is going to want to make your drink and put it in a dirty receptacle! Do not give the cafe workers extra work.)

Be a trend-setter, not a sheep. Just because many others haven't yet followed suit, that doesn't mean you should give up on your own green goals. 


PS... this doesn't only apply to reusable mugs! You can take this approach with take-out food and even bringing home leftovers.

taking home leftovers in munchie box

Bringing home leftovers in your own containers is a great way to avoid plastic or Styrofoam packaging. Here, we brought home Ethiopian food in a Munchie Box.


  • Ryan Beaupain said:

    You can use compostable garbage bags.

    April 05, 2020

  • Patricia said:

    I like your blog, especially ways to use reusable “everything “. Please keep providing tips, so simple now I can rethink the “why” I would want to buy that product. I will be moving in the near future and have a cupboard full of plastic containers. As more and more products come on the market, I can see that I can change my old comfortable ways of thinking.

    Plastic bags will be banned in the new year. Do you have any suggestions on what I can use for the garbage can under the sink? I use a plastic bag , but I am hoping that someone will come up with a replacement.


    January 05, 2020

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