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High Street Chains launch Coffee Cup Recycling Schemes

9th December 2016

Following on from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “War on Waste”, both Starbucks and Costa Coffee have announced action against the problem of disposable coffee cup wastage in the UK.  The Liberal Democrat party has previously called for a charge on disposable coffee cups in order to reduce the demand for these cups and encourage consumers to invest in re-usable equivalents.  In contrast, this action from the UK’s two largest coffee chains represents an attempt to increase coffee cup recycling and re-circulation within the UK coffee market.

In partnership with waste firm Veolia, both chains are set to launch front of house coffee cup recycling schemes.  Following a successful trial in 45 stores in London and Manchester, Costa Coffee, the UK’s largest coffee chain with more than 2000 stores across the country, is set to roll out recycling racks across all of its UK stores by the end of January 2017.  Costa believes the scheme will help to recycle up to 30 million cups per year, meaning this scheme offers a small but important first step to greater recycling of disposable coffee cups.   Similarly, Starbucks will be trialling the scheme in 21 Central and West London stores in January 2017.

Could this be fully recycled in the future?

In addition to this, Starbucks are also trialling the fully recyclable Frugalpac cups in stores in the UK.  The Frugalpac cup has a thin, easily removable plastic lining which provides the necessary waterproofing for paper cups.  That the lining is easily removable is key, and it is in this that the Frugalpac cups differ from conventional coffee cups.  On a conventional cup, the lining is difficult to remove and although cups are, in theory, recyclable, few specialist recycling centres have the capacity for this.  As a consequence, it is estimated that less than 1% of conventional paper cups are recycled, with the remainder ending up at landfill or being incinerated.  The Frugalpac cups are thus superior because they can be recycled through kerbside waste collection services meaning that a greater proportion of disposable coffee cups used can, in practice, be recycled.

Both measures represent potential solutions to the problems of coffee cups in the UK.  Although currently on trial, if Frugalpac cups become widely adopted across Starbuck’s franchises a significant chunk of the coffee cups used each day will be recyclable through conventional, kerbside collection.  In a similar vein, although Costa’s current scheme only has the capacity to recycle 1% of the coffee cups wasted each day, an expansion of the scheme (if it is successful) and greater usage by consumers could contribute to a reduction in the number of cups reaching landfill.

Despite these potential successes, the problem of disposable coffee cup wastage in the UK remains a significant issue requiring much broader action to tackle completely.


The Guardian

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