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    Student project investigating impact of reusable coffee cups at Harper Adams University

    17 March 2023

    Global Recycling Day is celebrated every year on March 18th to help recognise, and celebrate, the importance recycling plays in preserving our precious primary resources and securing the future of our planet.

    In the run up to the day, we spoke to Harper Adams student, Bella Li about her recycling-focused Honours Research Project (HRP).

    Fourth year Food student Bella Li is examining what changes consumers’ behaviour when reusable coffee cups are introduced – and is using Harper Adams for her study.

    Her research looks at the impact of the change from disposable to reusable cups on a university campus and aims to encourage other universities to follow suit.

    The cup deposit scheme at Harper was introduced initially as a trial by the Harper Catering Department in September 2019, as part of their 2020-2025 Sustainability Policy to reduce waste, save resources and encourage a more sustainable lifestyle.

    Customers would pay a £1 deposit for the cup, enjoy their hot or cold drink and then return the cup to get their deposit back.

    The trial proved a great success and since then, the University has seen a significant reduction in waste, saving more than 4,000 disposable cups from being used.

    As the scheme progressed the Catering Department introduced a token system instead of pound coins, which can be used in any of the University’s café outlets to buy into the scheme and claim another cup.

    Bella, who is originally from China, will be collecting her data through questionnaires and in-depth interviews with the University’s Catering Department.

    “I chose this topic because the scheme of reusable cups is pretty new for me. I have never heard about something like this in China.

    “I interviewed catering managers David Nuttall and Matthew Thorpe, and they were supportive. I learned more information of the scheme, and the sustainability. I quickly changed my original topic of recycling plastic to this one.”

    Before finalising her process, Bella conducted a pilot study to gain feedback.

    “For my HRP process, I did a small pilot test and have received a lot of applicable feedback. Now, I am working on the questionnaire for students and staff in HAU”.

    You can find Bella’s questionnaire here

    Bella was given the chance to outline her project as part of an undergraduate research conference for Food and Business students at Harper Adams in February.

    In her presentation, she explained how the role of social norms, environmental messaging and institutional support can impact consumer behaviour change.

    “When my lecturer, Hairong told me about the conference, I was incredibly interested because I enjoy public speaking. In terms of rehearsal, first of all, my supervisor Sandra Turner helped me with my transcript and the logical coherence. Then, I practiced my presentation by recording myself, reviewing, delivering the speaking in front of the mirror.

    “Before the conference, I told my supervisor I believed I could win best presentation, and I just worked towards this goal. I enjoyed the conference, and my delivery very much. The lecturers and students gave me useful feedback.”

    Bella did indeed win Best Presentation, after her talk was chosen by her fellow students as their favourite from the day.

    Elizabeth Creak Chair in Agri-Tech Economic Modelling, Professor Karl Behrendt and Head of the Food Land and Agribusiness Management Department Rebecca Payne presented Bella with a certificate and prize marking her achievement at a ceremony at the end of the conference.

    Speaking shortly after the event, Rebecca paid tribute to Bella and her fellow students, and said: “It is a great honour and privilege to witness the development of our students’ ideas as they talk about their progress on the projects that were highlighted in today’s Undergraduate Research Conference in Business and Food.

    “This event signals the capstone project of their undergraduate studies here at Harper Adams University.  The posters and presentations that were the focus of the conference were both broad in their scope and thoughtful in their content.

    “I am reassured that the next generation of Food and Business students leaving our university have the bests interest of our population and our planet at the core of their ideas."

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