Tackling the takeaway coffee cup crisis

Today, Costa Coffee announced a commitment to recycling the same volume of cups it puts to market. Here, Peter Clayson, General Manager of Business Development and External Affairs at DS Smith Recycling, discusses what this means for the recycling industry and looks at how collaboration across the supply chain will prove invaluable in tackling on-the-go waste.

Costa’s financial commitment to recycling half a billion coffee cups is another significant step forward in being able to recycle all of the 2.5 billion coffee cups we use every year in the UK.

This comes at a pivotal time, with the coffee retail sector growing and coffee cup recycling still a hot consumer topic, and is great news for recycling in the UK.

In March, we were excited to announce that following on from trials we had run, we were able to recycle up to 2.5 billion cups at our recycled paper mill in Kent – the largest of its kind in the UK. From today, Costa’s initiative will help get a significant proportion of those 2.5 billion cups to us.

During the trial, we recycled 40 tonnes of coffee cups – more than four million individual cups. These cups were blended in controlled conditions, at a variety of trial ratios, with pure recycled paper grades – producing approximately 3.5bn square metres of paper that met our stringent quality standards.

With this new capacity available, we challenged government, collectors, recyclers, and coffee retailers to collaborate to deliver the collection infrastructure needed to help correctly segregate and collect coffee cups for recycling. This voluntary initiative by Costa is a great example of that, helping to provide the financial investment needed to support better on-the-go recycling.

High-profile action from industry leaders is obviously a pivotal step, but there is more work still to be done. The UK is still mid-table when it comes to recycling performance, and we’ll continue to look for opportunities to engage with the government to make us world class. If we don’t, we miss the opportunity to get to the desired position wherein every used coffee cup is being recycled.

We look forward to continuing our work with Costa to realise the full potential of recycling coffee cups, and receiving more of their cups at our Kemsley paper mill.