South Korea’s Happy Habit Project Reduces 10 Million Coffee Cups in Virtuous Cycle
SK Telecom’s Happy Habit Project is a public-private initiative that aims to reduce the use of disposable cups in South Korea. The project was launched in 2021 by the Habit Eco Alliance, a coalition of companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.
The project has been adopted by companies like Starbucks, LG Display, Daishin Securities, SKT, Paris Baguette, Il Mazzio, and Pascucci.
Also, an increasing number of local governments and public agencies such as Incheon City Hall and Seoul Metropolitan Government – are joining the efforts by allowing only multi-use cups to be used at coffee shops within their office buildings.
By region, Jeju Island – where the project first started – has saved the use of 6.48 million disposable cups, followed by Seoul and Sejong with 2.28 million and 670,000, respectively. In total, these areas, combined with a few others, have eliminated 10 million disposable cups, preventing them from entering the waste stream or the environment. This has resulted in a reduction of an estimated 293 tonnes of CO2 emissions and untold pollution in nature.
Korean federal government agencies are also joining; having this month mandated that coffee shops in all 13 government complexes across Korea will be required to implement a multi-use cup circulation system by 2027. All 22 coffee shops located in the government complex in Sejong have already adopted the system, serving beverages in only reusable cups.
The Happy Habit Project works by providing customers with reusable cups at participating coffee shops. Customers pay a KRW 1,000 deposit for the cup (about $0.75 USD), which they can then return to any participating coffee shop for a refund or a clean cup. The cups are then cleaned and sanitized, and redistributed to the coffee shops.
The Happy Habit Project cups are washed using a high-temperature, high-pressure cleaning system. This system uses hot water and steam to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. The cups are then dried using a hot air dryer. The cleaning system is designed to be as efficient as possible. The cups are washed in batches, and the system is constantly monitored to ensure that the cups are clean and sanitized.
See also: German Stadiums Adopt Reusable Cups.
The cups are also visually inspected by staff before they are redistributed to the coffee shops to ensure that the cups are in good condition and that they are suitable for use.
The Happy Habit Project uses what they call the “Habit Cup,” a reusable cup made of durable and food-safe polypropylene. The cups are also dishwasher-safe, making them easy to clean. They are available in various colors, including black, white, blue, and green and have a logo on the side that identifies them as part of the Happy Habit Project.
The cups are designed to be used for years and are recycled at the end of their lifespan.
According to the Earth Day organization, an estimated 50 billion disposable coffee cups are discarded in the United States each year. This is equivalent to 160 million cups per day or 5.7 million cups per hour! The majority of these cups are made from paper and lined with plastic, which makes them difficult to recycle. As a result, most of them end up in nature and landfills, where they can take up to 500 years to decompose.
The Happy Habit Project is a good example of how public-private partnerships can be used to address environmental challenges. The project has been successful in reducing the use of disposable cups, and it has the potential to make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change and single-use plastic in the region