Costa pledges to recycle half a billion cups

Costa has raised the bar on paper cup recycling by promising to recycle the equivalent of all of its takeaway cups by 2020.

The coffee shop chain is incentivising waste collectors to recycle takeaway cups by offering £70 for every tonne of cups collected, increasing the value of one tonne of cups from an average of £50 to £120.

It says 100 million cups will be recycled this year alone, rising to 500 million coffee cups a year by 2020, the equivalent of its entire yearly sales of takeaway cups and a fifth of the 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups consumed by UK citizens each year.

The announcement has been made in partnership with five national waste collectors – Veolia, Biffa, Suez, Grundon and First Mile – and with the support of the three UK paper mills – James Cropper, ACE UK and DS Smith – currently able to recycle takeaway cups.

Disposable cups are generally composed of paper as well as a thin 5% polyethylene coating. Because the two layers are fused, separating the two materials is very difficult, which in turns makes recycling expensive. It is estimated that just 1 in 400 cups are recycled as a result.

Following this week’s announcement, takeaway cups will immediately start getting recycled from sites such as airports, hospitals, universities and public spaces that are serviced by the big five waste collectors Costa has partnered with. The focus over the coming weeks and months will move to getting more local councils on board with the scheme so that cups disposed of at home or in a street side recycling bin will get collected and recycled.

Costa called on other cup retailers to join forces and help build a dynamic market for takeaway coffee cup recycling. “Following today’s announcement up to 100 million cups will be recycled this year alone and if the nation’s other coffee chains sign up, there is no reason why all takeaway cups could not be recycled by as early as 2020,” said Dominic Paul, managing director for Costa.

The move was welcomed by environment minister, Thérèse Coffey, as a “significant step by a British business which should dramatically increase the number of disposable coffee cups we recycle in this country”.

Costa has already introduced a nationwide in-store recycling scheme, which accepts any branded paper cup and to date has recycled 14 million cups since February 2017.

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