How do you Recycle Coffee Cups?

and other frequently asked questions

Find out everything you need to know about coffee cup recycling and our innovative Coffee Cup Drop Box here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are paper coffee cups reusable?

Yes. It is possible to recycle and reuse paper coffee cups. However, up to 7.8 million cups still end up in landfill or being burned every day in the UK. 

Why are coffee cups so hard to recycle?

Coffee Cups are created with a thin plastic lining called polyethylene so that the hot drink doesn’t leak. This means some recycling facilities cannot separate the materials and therefore they cannot be recycled into new paper or plastic products. However, after a series of trials at our Kemsley Paper Mill, DS Smith announced that we do have the facilities to recycle up to 2.5 billion coffee cups per year.  

Can you recycle coffee cups in the UK?

Yes. DS Smith has been leading the innovation of coffee cup recycling by rolling out a national coffee cup recycling scheme. Through using our Coffee Cup Drop Box product and service, thousands of independent coffee shops and businesses will be able to recycle their hot drink cups in the UK. 

What coffee cups can you recycle?

We accept any hot drink cups that have a single wall of plastic. Unfortunately, we cannot recycle cold drink cups as they are lined with plastic internally and externally. We also cannot accept plastic cups.

How does the Drop Box work?

Our Coffee Cup Drop Box is aimed at businesses of all sizes that want to recycle their coffee cups. DS Smith will deliver the Drop Box to your chosen location and once it is full we will pick it up to be recycled into new products at our paper mill in Kent. Please see our video below for a step by step explanation of how it works. 




Other frequently asked questions

How can you guarantee that the cups will be recycled?

DS Smith owns a network of paper mills around the world. We recycle over 5.5 million tonnes of paper & cardboard each year, and our mill in Kent is the largest mill in the UK. In 2017 we announced that we have enough capacity at our mill to recycle up to 2.5 billion used coffee cups in the UK. The Coffee Cup Drop Boxes have been designed so that they can be bulked up at our recycling depot which is attached to our mill, and recycled - box and all. That means that we can guarantee that they are recycled in the UK! It also means that the box itself is a true closed-loop product as we manufacture the Drop Box in our own packaging plant in Launceston, Cornwall, from paper from our mill in Kent. 

How do we order the boxes?

Customers can set up an account on our ePack webshop. Once the account is set up, you will be able to order boxes from our online shop, and the boxes will be despatched. The boxes are prepaid so there is no need to set up a credit account and no need to worry about invoicing.

How much does the Coffee Cup Drop Box cost?

The Drop Box will be sold for £15 per box, with a minimum order of six boxes. Therefore, the minimum order is £90. This is an all-inclusive charge including the delivery of the boxes, collection when full, and the reprocessing of the cups.

Do I have to pay a separate collection charge?

No. The £90 per order is an all-inclusive charge; you won’t be charged anything else.

How many cups will the Drop Box hold?

If the cups are correctly stacked with no plastic lids and no rubbish inside, the box will hold around 700 cups. During field trials, we have got 711 nine-ounce cups in the box, and 702 twelve-ounce cups.

How will the box be delivered?

The boxes will come in an outer case with the components for all 6 boxes flat packed inside.

How do I assemble the box?

The outer case has instructions for building the box, and we have also made a how-to video to show how to build the box. The box is made up of the main body, lid, internal dividers and header board.

What is the process for collection of the full boxes?

We will arrange a collection by Royal Mail Relay when you have two full boxes. Royal Mail Relay is a specialist courier arm of Royal Mail Group. When the boxes are ready for collection, you or your customer can call 02920849300 or email and we will arrange the collection. Royal Mail Relay will then collect the full boxes and bring them to our depot in Kent.

Do you have to deliver and collect from the same address?

No. We have agreed on a process so that the boxes will be delivered to the operator’s site, and can be collected either from your customer’s site or your site. This gives you the option to decide whether to keep full control of the process and bring the full boxes back to you or to allow the customer to call us for a collection directly from their site. 

What if the box gets contaminated with coffee slops?

Unfortunately, we cannot accept heavily contaminated boxes. If a small amount of coffee slops seep into the cardboard then it will be OK, but if a box is obviously heavily contaminated then Royal Mail has instructed their Relay drivers to not accept the box. In this circumstance, the site will either need to sort the problem out or dispose of them in the general waste.

What happens when the cups get to the mill?

The boxes will be stored at our depot until we have around one tonne (around 100 boxes). At this point, we will bale them (box and all), and take them to one of the stock preparation lines where they will be pulped. The fibre will be used to make packaging grade paper which will be used for making new e-commerce packaging such as the Coffee Cup Drop Box itself – a truly circular solution!

If you want to read more about our Coffee Cup Drop Box, check out our latest content here. Let us know your questions and be sure to join the conversation on our Twitter page

If you’re interested in hearing more about what we’re doing with coffee cup recycling, provide your details here.

I would like to receive communications news and updates on DS Smith Plc products and services.

Using the following contact preference(s):

For more information on how DS Smith manages, uses and protects your information please click here. You can always withdraw your consent to this email marketing by using the opt-out mechanism at the bottom of our email marketing messages.