Resource Use

Starbucks to finance UK’s largest coffee cup recycling fund

A single use coffee cup in a binCoffee chain Starbucks and environmental charity Hubbub have come together to launch The Cup Fund, which will see grants going to ‘at least 10’ large-scale disposable cup recycling projects.

Funding of between £50,000 and £100,000 will go to successful applicants that demonstrate plans to improve and develop collection and recycling infrastructure.

The need to tackle the mountain of coffee cup waste in the UK has become increasingly apparent over the past two years – as has the country’s lack of infrastructure designed to deal with the waste. Because the items are made of a mix of plastic and paper materials, and because they are often contaminated with liquids, they have to be collected separately from standard paper or plastic recycling. This means that designated coffee cup bins are required in ‘on the go’ areas like shopping centres and train stations.

Figures widely reported last year state that of the 30,000 tonnes of disposable coffee cups thrown away each year, only 0.25 per cent are recycled. However, the picture for recycling has improved, with a report from the Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group (PCRRG) forecasting that 1 in 12 coffee cups will be recycled this year, with more than 4,500 paper cup recycling points (such as bring banks and in-store take back schemes) now available in the UK.

Read more: What's the problem with coffee cups?

21 waste collectors are now taking part in a national recycling scheme funded by Costa Coffee, and five reprocessors are accepting the items – ACE UK, DS Smith, James Cropper, Veolia and Simply Cups. The Cup Fund, from Starbucks and Hubbub, aims to further boost this burgeoning cup recycling industry, providing not only financial support but guidance and advice to the winning programmes.

Hubbub is inviting applications from local authorities, recycling companies, property owners, social enterprises and any organisations that want to increase the UK’s cup recycling infrastructure. The applications will be assessed by an independent panel made up of recycling experts such as the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC).

“We know that local authorities and building managers are committed to achieving their recycling targets,” said Hubbub’s CEO and Founder Trewin Restorick, “but with increased strain on their budgets, investing in infrastructure is difficult. The launch of The Cup Fund with Starbucks means we will be able to collect cups in significant volumes in areas where there may not have been any drop off points before. We’re looking for ambitious, large-scale projects that will transform cup recycling in high footfall areas.”

Hubbub's Square Mile recycling challengeHubbub has extensive experience working to promote cup recycling, with its Leeds By Example project introducing new on-the-go recycling options in and around Leeds city centre. The charity also helped Londoners to recycle five million coffee cups in 2017 with the Square Mile Challenge, and was instrumental in measuring the success of Starbucks’ five pence coffee cup charge, proceeds from which are going towards The Cup Fund.

The five pence charge was rolled out across all Starbucks stores from July 2018. Customers purchasing a hot drink in a single-use disposable cup are charged an extra five pence, while those who bring their own reusable cup receive a 25 pence discount, leading to an apparent leap in the use of reusable cups, increasing from 1.8 per cent to 5 per cent of all hot drinks sold since the charge was introduced.

In fact, nationwide there has been a boom in the uptake of reusable cups in the past two years, with Argos reporting that it sold 537 per cent more reusable cups in December 2017 than the same month in 2016. However, before reusable cups become second nature for everyone, there remains a need to ensure that all disposable cups are recycled instead of being littered or thrown away.

Jaz Rabadia MBE, UK senior manager of energy and sustainability at Starbucks, said: “For us it’s about three things when it comes to cups – getting more customers to bring in a reusable cup when they visit us, recycling those that are used and also looking at alternative materials to plastic that future cups could be made from, and we’ll be trialling those in London next year.”

For more information, visit The Cup Fund website.

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