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Businesses join forces to tackle Scotland’s coffee cup waste

A disposable coffee cup in a binSome of the UK’s biggest disposable coffee cup producers, retailers and recyclers have teamed up for a new initiative in Scotland.

Frugalpac, a producer of paper cups from recycled materials, is the latest company to sign up to the initiative, called the Cup Movement. Launched on 31 January, the Cup Movement was created by environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) to tackle the 500 million single-use cups that are used and disposed of each year in Scotland.

The initiative is starting in Glasgow, where KSB says 95 million cups are used annually. The group is aiming to ‘transform Glasgow’s relationship with single-use cups’ by focusing on three key actions: reducing litter, improving collection and recycling, and promoting reusable alternatives.

Central supporting partners in the initiative are paper cup collection and recycling company, Simply Cups, and the Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group, a cross-industry body working to improve the sustainability of the sector. Simply Cups is helping to set up a recycling service in Scotland, which will involve dedicated cup collection bins installed across the city. These will help to ensure the cups get taken for recycling without contaminating standard paper or plastic recycling.

As well as Frugalpac, other businesses involved include retailers Pret a Manger, Costa and Starbucks, and cup manufacturers Benders, Huhtamaki and Stora Enso. Malcolm Waugh, CEO of Frugalpac, said: “48 per cent of Glasgow’s drinks waste is single-use cups, but there is an alternative in our fully recyclable Frugal Cup and we’re delighted to be one of the first to support this new initiative. By collaborating with coffee vendors and waste disposal facilities, we can ensure we all play our part in preventing coffee cups going to landfill.”

Over the past year, a growing number of schemes to improve coffee cup recycling have been announced. Paper manufacturer James Cropper has launched a cup recycling programme, which is currently offered to businesses in London, while coffee chain Costa, one of the Cup Movement’s partners, has plans to recycle half a million cups a year by 2020. The chain is providing financial subsidies to collection companies Veolia, Biffa, Suez, Grundon and First Mile (£70 per tonne of takeaway cups collected) as an incentive to boost cup recycling.

Read more: Veolia to recycle 120m coffee cups in 2019

In March 2018, packaging company DS Smith claimed that it has the capacity to recycle all the UK’s coffee cup waste (estimated at 2.5 million cups back in 2014, so likely a higher figure today). However, it pointed to a lack of separate collection infrastructure as one of the barriers preventing this recycling milestone from being reached.

Even so, the Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group estimated in a recent report that there has been a huge increase in cup recycling in the UK over the past two years. The group states that the figures most frequently reported in the media – that only 0.25 per cent of cups are recycled, or 1 in 400 – are now out of date, and that in fact around 1 in 25 cups are being recycled. This year that figure could increase to as much as 1 in 12.

The report explains that there are now more than 4,500 paper cup recycling points in the UK, and 115 local authorities also collect paper cups for recycling along with paper cartons, while 21 waste collectors are now participating in a national cup recycling scheme.

As well as improving recycling, the Cup Movement is taking a long-term view on the use of coffee cups, and is making behaviour change a significant element of the initiative, with partners working to educate and empower people to reduce their consumption of disposable cups and think more about reusable options. In addition, the group will be gathering evidence on engagement with the campaign, in order to create a model of best practice that it is hoped can be rolled out across other cities across the UK.

Derek Robertson, Chief Executive Officer of Keep Scotland Beautiful, commented: “We look forward to working with Frugalpac, alongside our other partners, to deliver transformational change across the city. The Cup Movement will bring together everyone in Glasgow to reach each and every cup before it becomes litter or landfill. Everyone has the opportunity to be part of this positive movement for change.”

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