Following a three-month industry experiment to recycle disposable paper cups in Manchester, a larger scheme is to be launched in London, with one coffee retailer unveiling its own national initiative.
The pilot project, led by environmental charity Hubbub alongside a range of industry partners, saw 20,000 cups collected from Manchester’s Oxford Street to be specially recycled into new products.
The industry-wide collaboration came after a national ‘War On Waste’ campaign revealed that, despite industry claims, less than one per cent of paper cups are being recycled. This is due to their hard-to-treat construction, which includes a polyethylene coating that is difficult for recyclers to separate from the paper.
The specially-developed recycling process trialled in Manchester involves shredding the whole cup and mixing it with recycled plastic to create a mouldable plastic material for new products, from pens to picnic benches.
Following the pilot’s success, a bigger scheme is now set to be rolled out in London’s Square Mile, with half a million cups to be recycled by the end of 2017.
The hope is that other parts of the UK will follow suit, ultimately reaching a point where recycling levels for cups are on a par with drinks cans and plastic bottles.
Meanwhile, following its own trial in stores in Manchester and London, Costa Coffee has launched a nationwide scheme to encourage customers to leave their coffee cups in store after use.
By collecting the cups separately in store, Costa is able to ensure they are kept apart from other waste streams, placed upside down on specially designed racks to drain properly, and baled up for treatment at paper pulping facilities.
The fibre is then recovered by separating the polymer plastic liner from the cup, which can then be used to create moulded fibre products such as coffee cup holders and egg boxes.
The trial in London and Manchester recovered and recycled around 14 per cent of cups, with the figure expected to gradually grow as consumer awareness increases.
The company has also started offering a discount for customers using a reusable cup and is working with packaging specialists to improve the overall recyclability of its cups through standard processes.