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UK’s Biggest Ever Coffee Cup Recycling Scheme Launches Today


Caffeine-fuelled workers in the City of London are today being urged to use brand new recycling points established across the Square Mile as part of the UK’s biggest push to date to tackle the issue of disposable coffee cup recycling.


The City of London Corporation, Network Rail, national coffee retailers and some of the Square Mile’s biggest employers have joined forces in the Square Mile Challenge initiative led by environmental charity Hubbub, in partnership with recycling company Simply Cups.  The scheme introduces coffee cup recycling facilities across the city and aims to collect and recycle half a million cups in the City of London throughout April, rising to 5 million by the end of the year.


Over 100 high street coffee retailers are offering recycling facilities and accepting coffee cups in their stores, regardless of where they were purchased.  There are unmissable Square Mile Challenge bins in the shape of bright yellow coffee cups in place on the City’s streets and cups will be collected at Liverpool Street station during rush hour every week day throughout the month.


Employers are playing their part, with 30 organisations based in the City including Lloyd’s, ING Bank, London Metropolitan University and major business premises such as the Leadenhall building (“The Cheesegrater”) collecting paper coffee cups in their offices, helping divert them into a new waste stream.


Every day up to seven million coffee cups are thrown away across the UK, with less than 1% of these cups thought to be recycled.  The tricky issue to date has been the plastic film on the inside of the paper cups, which means that the cups can rarely be recycled with other mixed recycling.  The recycling methods used for the Square Mile Challenge will process the cups to create either a plastic or recovered fibre material which is made into new products, some of which will be donated to a new outdoor community space and cafe opening in the City next year.


Gavin Ellis, Co-founder of Hubbub said:

“We are delighted that so many organisations, including the local authority, transport hub and businesses that are usually in competition with each other, are collaborating to tackle this issue.  We hope that other parts of the UK will follow suit and eventually reach a point where recycling levels for coffee cups are on a par with those for drinks cans and bottles.

It would be easy to suggest that everyone should use reusable cups for our hot drinks, but the reality is that disposable cups are being used in their millions and so we have to deliver a solution to this issue.  Alongside their participation in the development of recycling solutions, it’s great to see that many retailers are also now providing discounts for customers using reusable cups and are investigating longer-term solutions such as using cups that can be recycled in existing paper and cardboard waste streams.”


Wendy Mead, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Environment Committee, said: 

“We really need the support and enthusiasm of people working, living and visiting the City of London to help us smash our target of recycling half a million cups by the end of the month. We urge everyone to find and use their nearest recycling point even if it means walking a few extra steps to drop your cup into a Square Mile Challenge bin or to a participating retailer – look out for the yellow window stickers!”


People working or living in the city are encouraged to view this map to locate their nearest recycling point and look out for yellow stickers in the windows of participating organisations.


This initiative has been made possible with the support of coffee retailers: Caffe Nero, Costa, Marks and Spencer, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Pret A Manger, Starbucks, and coffee cup manufacturers: Benders Paper Cups, Bunzl Catering Supplies, Dart Products Europe, Huhtamaki and SEDA International Packaging Group.  It follows the launch of the Paper Cup Manifesto in June 2016, which garnered over 40 signatories from companies involved in the coffee industry, committing to improve recovery and increase recycling of paper cups.