High Street coffee chains must go “further and faster” in developing recyclable paper cups, warn councils.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, wants coffee giants to follow the lead of orange juice carton manufacturers who, working with councils, have successfully developed a system for collecting and recycling empty cartons.
The call comes as latest statistics show more than 2.5 billion paper cups are thrown away in the UK every year – enough to go round the world five-and-a-half times.
Most coffee cups have a plastic coating that must be separated from paper before recycling, which ordinary paper recycling systems are not set up to do. In some cases, coffee chains are making recycling more difficult for councils because the drink cup materials are getting mixed up with the paper that many householders have taken time and trouble over collecting, resulting in more waste going to landfill.
LGA – “Councils, who have experienced substantial budget reductions, are doing everything they can to try and tackle this but they need the industry to step up. This means coffee giants working with councils to find practical solutions”
Most discarded coffee cups end up at landfill sites, creating an estimated 25,000 tonnes of waste – enough to fill London’s Royal Albert Hall – which is a significant extra cost to councils. Council taxpayers are ultimately the ones left to foot the bill. Local authorities across the country work very hard with businesses and residents to provide high-quality waste collection services, embracing innovative solutions and new technology. As a result of this, recycling rates have quadrupled in the past decade. However, it is proving hugely costly for councils. English councils alone currently have to spend £3.3 billion a year on recycling, collecting and disposing of waste.
Cllr Peter Box, the LGA’s Environment spokesman said: “Two-and-a-half billion paper cups are thrown away each year and because of the way they are designed it is extremely difficult to recycle them. Many end up in landfill sites, costing council taxpayers millions of pounds.
“Councils, who have experienced substantial budget reductions, are doing everything they can to try and tackle this but they need the industry to step up. This means coffee giants working with councils to find practical solutions. The industry has recently shown signs of heading in the right direction on this issue – but it needs to go further, faster and demonstrate positive and immediate action in developing recyclable cups.
“Recycling has been a real success story for councils and residents, and rates have quadrupled in the last decade. It’s extremely frustrating that this hard work is being damaged by a lack of recyclable paper cups.
“Retailers, manufacturers and caterers must be doing more to bring down the 23 million tonnes of waste generated each year.”
Coffee Cup Controversy
National media reports have recently criticised high street coffee chains for misleading the public about how many paper cups they recycle, after it emerged that fewer than one in 400 high street coffee chain paper cups are actually recycled.
Fewer than 3m were recycled last year in the UK, according to Simply Cups, which operates Britain’s only paper cup recycling service.
Peter Goodwin, co-founder of Simply Cups, said that it was apparent the application of the recycling symbol on a product (from whatever industry) bears no guarantee that a product – whilst recyclable – is actually going to be recycled.
During a House of Commons session, Resources Minister, Rory Stewart, admitted there is a “huge problem” and suggested that the answer could be in a similar tax on paper cups to that of plastic bags.
Almost immediately, however, Defra issued a statement saying it had no plans to create “disposable Cup Tax”.
CIWM Journal Online asked visitors to the site in an online poll whether a cup levy should be created.
The majority of respondents (70%) were of the opinion a levy should be created, while 30% were against the idea.