Starbucks and Hubbub have announced a £1m “cup fund” to help kickstart disposable cup recycling in the UK.
At least 10 large-scale recycling programmes, with grants of between £50,000 and £100,000 each, will be created. The money comes from the 5p that Starbucks charges customers who use single-use cups.
Hubbub, an environmental charity, said there is now enough capacity in the UK to recycle all eight billion of the single-use cups used each year.
However, more recycling points are needed to collect the cups. There also needs to be better communication to help the public recycle effectively, with tea bags and leftover drink sometimes spoiling “whole batches of recycling”.
“We’re looking for ambitious, large-scale projects that will transform cup recycling in high footfall areas,” said Hubbub founder and CEO Trewin Restorick.
According to the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group, there are now 4,500 paper cup recycling points in the UK. Though recycling rates have increased in the past two years, just 4% of cups are currently recycled.
The Foodservice Packaging Association has maintained that recycling will increase “fast” as the sector works together within the PCRRG. However, pressure is increasing for ministers to introduce charges for the cups.
In Scotland, plans for a “latte levy” moved a step closer recently. The Scottish Green Party estimates that a 25p charge could raise between £50m and £200m, which could be channelled back to local authorities. In Westminster, the chancellor Philip Hammond has ruled out a tax on cups for now.
At Starbucks, the 5p in-store charge has resulted in reusable cup use increasing from 1.8% nationwide, to over 5% of all hot drinks sold. Uptake of reusables could increase further if the charge was increased to 25p: a nationwide charge at that level could result in 750 million fewer cups being littered, landfilled or incinerated every year, according to MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee.
Earlier this month, Boston Tea Party revealed that its ban on single-use takeaway cups had led to a £250,000 fall in sales in the past 10 months.
Owner Sam Roberts told BBC News that it had factored the loss, which represents 25% of coffee sales, into its plans and that too many operators were "putting their profits before the planet".
"At the moment bigger businesses are deploying a smoke and mirrors strategy and not resolving problems while seeming like they are doing something about it,” he said. “We are 100% committed and there's no going back."