UK Waste Infrastructure ‘Insufficient’ For Biodegradable Cup Recycling

 In Coffee News

There has been much in the news recently about single-use plastic and disposable cups, and it was only last month (January) that the Independent revealed that sales of reusable coffee cups climbed five-fold in December… so it seems that consumers are getting the message and are keen to make positive changes to have an impact on the environment and help slow the progress of climate change.

But is the government of the same mind or not? The Independent has also just published an article (February 6th) stating that industry leaders believe the UK’s waste management infrastructure isn’t good enough to ensure that biodegradable cups are disposed of properly.

Chris Stemman, executive director at the British Coffee Association, explained that the capacity isn’t there at the moment for manufacturing or disposing of these more eco-friendly cups… which is clearly a problem. And as it stands right now, the majority of these biodegradable coffee cups are still likely to find themselves in landfill.

He went on to say: “Generally for paper cups to be composted it requires an industrial process and usually that isn’t something that comes out of high street bins. There isn’t segregation of the waste at that point.”

Although Mr Stemman does think that there will always be a need for a “one-trip cup”, he is also keen for people to start prioritising reusable cups, which is something that coffee shops the world over could certainly help to promote.

Starbucks, for example, already sells a £1 reusable cup and also has a variety of different tumblers for customers to choose from. Certainly, making reusable cups attractive and stylish is one way of encouraging people to buy them instead of using disposable cups.

The Seattle-based coffee chain also runs a recycling scheme and is trialling a new approach with its waste services provider to see if the disposable cups (which can be separated from the rest of the company’s waste to ensure they’re properly recycled). The problem with disposable cups is that they come with an inner polyethylene liner, which makes it hard for them to be recycled.

Another tactic employed by Starbucks is offering customers a 25p discount on drinks if they bring in their own cups or tumblers – which would be a very easy strategy to roll out at your own place of business.

Similarly, Pret A Manger also recently announced that it would be doubling its discount for customers to 50p to encourage them to throw less away.

Mr Stemman went on to push for further investment in recycling facilities that are able to handle coffee cups with plastic lining. And others in the industry suggest that if the compostable packaging industry is developed it would be able to work alongside the waste sector to improve composting capabilities.

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