Whether it’s Greta Thunberg sailing to New York, or Extinction Rebellion protesting in London, our awareness of humans’ impact on the planet has grown hugely in the past five years and climate change is never far from our minds.
One of the biggest issues we face is the amount of non-recyclable waste that eventually makes its way into the oceans. Eight trillion pieces of plastic are dumped into our seas each year, according to a Forbes survey, which has a huge impact on marine life.
The disposable coffee cup is a repeat offender. Government figures show that the UK throws away 2.5billion coffee cups each year, with less than 1 per cent of these recycled.
Why are single use cups not recycled?
Most single use coffee cups contain a thin layer of polyethylene, which releases methane gas when sent to landfill, rendering them unrecyclable. This material is difficult to separate from the cardboard that surrounds it, and the UK only has three centres in which polyethylene can be recycled.
With increasing awareness around the health of the planet, the reusable product industry has exploded and there are more sustainable options than ever to choose from.
If saving the environment is not a good enough reason to buy a reusable coffee cup, then saving money might be a better incentive. Most high street coffee chains now offer discounts if you bring in your own mug, ranging from 20p at Greggs to 50p at Paul.
How we tested
We’ve tested a range of reusable coffee cups taking into account appearance, size, price, heat-retaining ability and how easy they are to use (for you and your local Pret barista). We used each cup at least twice, using those we liked a few times more.
We’ve divided the list into two sections, thermos mugs and reusable cups. The thermos mugs are on average more expensive, as they are well-insulated with with a focus on keeping your drink hot. The reusable cups are a thinner mug that essentially replicate a standard paper coffee cup. They won’t keep your drink as warm but are kinder towards your budget.
Where possible, we also looked into whether the cups contain BPA, which is a chemical found in many single-use plastic water bottles and can interfere with your body’s hormones. Read on to find your perfect reusable mug!
From £8.95, eCoffee
Best for: Value for money
Key specs – Sizes: 8oz, 12oz, 14oz, 16oz; Material: Silicone; Colour options: 50+
The eCoffee cup is an exceptional cup, and without a doubt the best buy. It’s one of the cheapest out there, and yet it retained heat amazingly well. It’s comfortable to hold, comes in a range of sizes and colours, and the BPA-free silicone is a pleasant material to drink from. The design of the cup is thoughtful, right down to the stopper, which can be folded up so as not to get in the way while you’re drinking.
The cups come in a range of block colours, as well as various different patterned themes, including a series modelled on prints by textile designer William Morris. The company also stocks replacement lids, sleeves and stoppers, adding to its sustainable credentials: it’s a lot more environmentally friendly to replace one part than to buy a brand new cup.
£15, John Lewis
Best for: A luxury mug
Key specs – Sizes: 4oz, 6oz, 8oz,12oz,16oz; Material: Glass, plastic, cork; Colour options: Unlimited (design your own)
Disclaimer: our tester has been using a KeepCup for around three years, but this is a testament to how good it is. The cups come in five sizes, from 4oz to 16oz, and you can customize them with an enormous range of different styles and colours (we tested the 12oz glass cup with a cork band). Although the glass doesn’t keep the contents as warm as a thermos mug, it works much better than a standard-issue paper cup. It was small enough to fit in our bag without trouble, big enough to fit a proper-sized latte inside it, and the swivel top made it easy to drink from.
£12.99, Turtle cup
Best for: Saving the ocean
Key specs – Sizes: 12oz; Material: Glass, silicone; Colour options: 5
The name derives from the 50p donations from every sale that go to #2minutebeachclean, helping to clean the UK’s beaches. Turtle cup are a carbon neutral company, and they offset all the carbon used in the making of the cups with schemes and projects that aim to reduce their carbon footprint.
The cup has a simple design, with a glass cup and thick silicone sleeve and lid (which, every now and then, was a little tricky to snap on). The depth of the sleeve made it comfortable to hold, and protected our hands from the heat. The colour options are bright, and the mug itself looks a lot more expensive than it actually is.
£4.99, Amazon (Price correct at time of writing)
Best for: Offbeat designs
Key specs – Sizes: 14oz, 16oz, 20oz; Material: Bamboo, silicone; Colour options: 18
For fans of Love Island, this is the reusable coffee cup that featured as a mea cuppa in more than one lovers’ tiff. More reusable cup than thermos, this won’t keep your coffee hot all day, but works perfectly for drinks bought on the way to the office..
The designs are fun (we tested the flamingo and polynesia versions) and jazzed up a boring weekday morning. The cup itself is made of bamboo and was soft to drink from, with the silicone lid easy to snap on. As it doesn’t have thick insulation, it holds a lot more than normal reusable cups (we tested the 16oz).
From £9.99, Huski
Best for: Tea drinkers
Key specs – Sizes: 400ml, 500ml; Material: Rice husks; Colour options: 3
Huski is a family-run company that makes eco-friendly mugs out of rice husks that would otherwise be discarded. They come in two sizes, 400ml or 500ml, and three beautiful pastel colours.
We tested the 500ml cup, slightly bigger than your average coffee cup, which easily fitted a cup of tea inside it. The slightly course exterior made it very easy to grip, and the lid stopper also worked as a handle. Our tea was well insulated, and the outside of the cup stayed cool.
Best for: Coffee aficionados
Key specs – Sizes: 12oz, 15oz; Material: Stainless steel, plastic, rubber, silicone; Colour options: 9
Bodum is a retailer that excels in tea and coffee products, from coffee grinders to milk frothers. We tested the stainless steel travel mug, but there are a range of different designs – look out for the travel press set which is essentially a portable cafetiere.
The Bodum mug is completely leak-proof (we turned it upside down and shook it and nothing came out), and the lid has a high lip that makes it very easy to drink from. The heat-retention function is so good that we burnt our tongues a full hour after the coffee had been brewed – you can tell that there has been a lot of focus on the design and useability of this thermos mug, and it’s worth spending the extra pounds on.
From £12, Amazon (Price correct at the time of writing)
Best for: Eco-credentials
Key specs – Sizes: 8oz, 12oz; Material: recycled single-use coffee cups (40%), plastic (60%); Colour options: 4
Cornwall-based company ‘ashortwalk’, which designed this cup, stars designer Dan Dicker, who was previously worked for Dyson. The aim of ashortwalk is to build meaningful products from recycled materials, and that is exactly what they’ve done with the rCup, the world’s first reusable cup made from single-use cups. The design is simple and there are a range of colours and sizes available.
The cup itself is easy to use, and kept our coffee warm for an hour or so. The only problem we encountered is when the cup is overfilled, it can spill when you screw the lid down, but the cup arrives with very clear instructions as to how to avoid this. It’s BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and ashortwalk will replace the seal for free during the cup’s ten-year lifetime. When it finally comes to the end of its life, it is 100 per cent recyclable.
From £19.97, Amazon (Price correct at the time of writing)
Best for: Otherwordly style
Key specs – Sizes: 450ml; Material: Stainless steel; Colour options: 7
If Neo from the Matrix carried a reusable coffee cup, he would use the 720DGREE. Produced in Germany, the design of this thermos is impossibly sleek and stylish, with a range of elegant colours available.
Our tester’s drink stayed hot, not warm, for over an hour, and there weren’t any odd tastes or smells from the container (as can so often ruin thermos drinks). The lid requires a little bit of a push to open it, but otherwise the cup was easy to use.
All 720DGREE bottles and mugs are BPA-free, and the brand supports the Neven Subotic Foundation, providing clean water to some of the poorest communities in the world.
Best for: Heat retention
Key specs – Sizes: 12oz; Material: Stainless steel; Colour options: 9
This is an aesthetically-pleasing mug, and almost every time we used it we were complimented on it by a member of the public. We included it in the thermos section because of its heat-retaining abilities, but the sleek design keeps it from looking too industrial. This mug is big enough to hold a latte but small enough not to take up too much room in a bag. There are nine colours to choose from – we liked the “rose gold intense” which has a shiny finish (all the others are matte).
It is also very sturdy, and survived being dropped on the floor twice. It isn’t fully leak-proof, as there is a small hole in the top of the mug for hot air to escape, (and Bru are very clear about this) but as long as you don’t tip it upside-down you’ll be fine. The only issue is, due to the shape, this doesn’t fit in any car cup holders – but for your public transport commute, it’s perfect.
From £19.99, Frank Green
Best for: Customising
Key specs – Sizes: 6oz, 10oz, 16oz; Material: Stainless steel; Colour options: Choose your own
We recommend the Frank Green mug to anyone who wants something a bit different. This cup has a fun, abstract design and comes in a range of different sizes (we tested the 10oz). Each section of the cup is fully customisable, with a big range of available colours. We put it in the thermos section as it has a stainless steel layer which kept our drink warmer than most reusable cups.
The mug is compact, easy to hold, and slots easily into a handbag or rucksack. As with a lot of mugs we tested, be careful not to overfill it, as when you screw the lid on it may spill.
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