The pilot started on 16 January. You can get the reusable cup for a deposit at various points of sale on campus. After you have used the sturdy cup, you can return it at one of the new ‘SmartBin’ machines placed at various locations on campus. The people behind the initiative expect that their pilot will prevent the use of about one hundred thousand disposable cups.

The sale of plastic disposable cups and meal packages will be banned in the Netherlands from July 2023. This ban will also cover disposable coffee-to-go cups that look as if they are made of cardboard, as these cups often contain a plastic layer. The ban will initially only apply to suppliers. Ben van der Kemp of the Real Estate & Facilities department explains how the new rules will work: “The new rules introduced by the Dutch government will not apply to universities yet, but once they do, all points of sale on campus selling coffee will have to find an alternative for the disposable cups. This initiative has been launched to see if we can develop a single system for the whole campus that works for everyone.”

How it works

You can get the cups from the following points of sale: the Erasmus Pavilion, New Fork, Tosti World, the sports building and the Vitam coffee corner. You pay a deposit and scan the code on the cup with the PackBack app to confirm that you have received the cup. You can then use the cup as often as you want, but you must return it at one of the ‘SmartBins’ within four days to get your deposit back. So the cups don’t cost you anything, except if you return them too late. PackBack checks and cleans the returned cups so that they can be reused.

Update 20 January: an earlier version of this article stated that the cups are available in VITAM restaurants, this is incorrect. They are, however, available in the coffee corners operated by VITAM.


The pilot has two phases. “The pilot will initially be rolled out at manned counters, such as in the sport café. This will tell us if the initiative catches on among students and how they feel about the service”, says Kemp. “If students are enthusiastic about it, we may consider having discussions with our coffee suppliers about using reusable cups for the coffee machines on campus.” The pilot will run for three months.

Read more

From cup to pulp: what happens to your coffee cup after you throw it away on campus

What actually happens to all the university's rubbish? Reporter Sieme de Wolf looked into…