We team up with UK's first coffee cup recycling scheme

Written by Vicky Martin

Coffee – it’s our staple drink, the fuel that keeps us Brits going in the morning, our beverage of choice over business meetings, or when we want to grab a drink on our daily commute.

In fact, we love it so much that we spend an extortionate £3 billion on it a year!

But our penchant for caffeine isn’t just burning a hole in our pockets, it’s also the UK’s fastest-growing waste stream, contributing to the great pile of waste we produce each day.

In the UK alone, it’s estimated we throw away 2.5 billion coffee cups a year.

That’s 7 million cups a day, and only 1% of these paper cups (1 in 400) is believed to be recycled. Instead, many of our disposed cups are being sent to landfill.

Why is this happening and how can we put a stop to it?

The breakdown

Coffee-on-the-go takeaway cups contain an inner polyethylene layer, chosen as it’s waterproof, can store hot liquid, and prevents the cup from becoming soggy.

Although the materials inside a coffee cup can technically be recycled, regular paper mills are unable to separate them, which is why they are sent to landfill instead.

However, with a specialised recycling facility and the right equipment, full recycling is entirely possible.

We’re excited to have partnered with a company that is making this recycling mission possible: Simply Cups, the UK’s first coffee cup recycling scheme!

How does it work?

Simply Cups is dedicated to turning paper and plastic cups into second-life materials with an aim to cut back on the amount we regularly waste.

This scheme is ideal for large, multi-tenanted commercial buildings and shopping centres that are at the forefront of thousands of consumers’ each day. This high footfall in turn equates to thousands of disposed cups.

The waste initiative segregates the materials – bypassing the traditional mixed recycling route by collecting, bulking, and sending the materials direct to those who concentrate on reprocessing – before reaching new manufacturers.

We’re working with Simply Cups in an attempt to prevent 5 million cups a year being disposed of and ending up in landfill.

Why now?

Food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘War on Waste’ programme documented how much waste we produce, when instead, it can of course be prevented.

Large coffee chains were among those named as having come under increasing pressure for not doing enough to cut back on consumer coffee cup waste. This shows the responsibility a company has in deciding how coffee cups are disposed of – rather than the consumer.

A consumer may think their cup is being recycled when they opt for the recycling bin, but because each cup needs to be sent to the appropriate recycling plant in order for the materials to be separated correctly, the question is: what can companies do to put a stop to the unwanted coffee cup?

Costa has also teamed up with Simply Cups, and they are tackling this issue. The leading coffee chain has completely changed their outlook on managing their cups in honour of protecting our environment.

Notably, they’ve made a pledge to accept any banded used cup across 2,000 stores, as well as offering a 25p discount when customers bring in their own reusable cup.

There are a number of ways we can think about waste more and what we can do to reduce it. Reusable cups are on the rise, with many countries swapping throwaway cardboard cups for plastic, stainless steel, or silicone alternatives.

With the right waste management solutions and support, we can help each other sustain our love of caffeine while also looking after our environment.

To find out more about the coffee cup recycling scheme and how we can help you, get in touch today.

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In the UK alone, it's estimated we throw away 2.5 billion coffee cups a year.
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