Coffee cup recycling expands in London's financial district
- A new partnership between the City of London Corporation, Network Rail, multiple coffee chains and other businesses aims to divert 5 million coffee cups for recycling per year, as reported by The Guardian. The project will focus on London's Square Mile, which is the city's financial district and the area with the highest concentration of office workers in the U.K.
- Special recycling bins will be placed in offices, streets and stores in the U.K.'s largest coffee cup diversion effort yet. Simply Cup, the participating recycler, will provide free collection to the first 30 businesses with more than 500 employees that sign up and work with additional businesses on discounted rates.
- The goal is to divert at least 500,000 cups in April. Simply Cup will either process the cups whole and create a moldable plastic resin that can be used to make products such as pens or benches, or separate the cup's paper and plastic components to recover the fiber. Any products made will be donated to community projects, schools and participating businesses, as reported by Resource.
The U.K. throws out an an estimated 2.5 billion to 3 billion coffee cups each year and less than 1% of them are recycled. Finding new ways to divert them has become a cultural fascination in recent years with multiple reports, television programs and ad campaigns around the issue. In response, Starbucks has been testing a new recyclable cup from Frugalpac and Costa Coffee is rolling out a cup recycling program — in partnership with Veolia — to all of its stores this month.
As companies such as Simply Cup develop new ways to separate the polyethylene liner from the paper cup, the challenge now is collecting a relatively clean stream of the material. The nonprofit Hubbub launched an experiment last fall using coffee cup-shaped recycling bins in downtown Manchester that ended up collecting more than 20,000 cups in three months. The success of that model helped inspire the idea to offer bins on a much larger scale in the Square Mile.
Expanding this concept beyond dense, heavily trafficked downtown areas could require a different approach and some officials have proposed a small fee on the cups similar to what England has done for plastic bags. Like in the U.S., the chances of any type of fee on products beyond bags seems unlikely due to the politics surrounding packaging ordinances. Though if these efforts in the U.K. are successful they could potentially inspire cities in the U.S. or elsewhere to launch similar collection programs.
Follow Cole Rosengren on Twitter