Peter Kohler was on his way from Edinburgh to London on the Virgin Trains East Coast service on Monday evening when he attempted to buy a white Americano in his standard reusable mug.
However, the server would not let him use the mug.
To make matters worse, the disposable cups used by the train service have a plastic lining which mean they can’t be recycled, Mr Kohler complained – and so he went without his coffee on that particular journey.
“In the thousands of times, including on other train services, I’ve asked to use my reusable coffee cup this is the first time I’ve been told ‘no’ because it has not been risk assessed,” said Mr Kohler. “I’ve used it in stations, cafes, pubs, train services and it has not been an issue. “They are normally happy for me to use my own coffee cup and some, like Imperial College London, offer me a discount for using my own cup,” added Mr Kohler.
The subject is particularly close to Mr Kohler’s heart, as co-director of a project to draw up a map of the country’s seaside plastic waste and monitor how this changes over time.
Britain throws away 2.5 billion coffee cups every year many of which find their way into the oceans where they slowly break down into smaller pieces, choking and poisoning marine wildlife.
A spokesperson for Virgin Trains said its services only sold hot drinks in their own containers for safety reasons.
However, the company is reviewing the situation and is likely to introduce measures in the coming weeks or months allowing customers to use their own mugs, he said.
It’s working on the guidelines now that will, for example, require any passenger mug to have a tight fitting lid – like the custom-designed illy container Mr Kohler tried to use earlier in the week.
“Safety is our paramount concern and the rules we have in place at the moment on the east coast route are there to avoid our people and customers being burnt by hot liquids. “We’re currently reviewing these to ensure that people can use their own cups in a safe manner,” the spokesman said.
He confirmed that the cups provided by the service can’t be recycled because of their plastic lining.