An investigation by Which? has revealed that coffee shops aren’t making it easy for their customers to recycle the takeaway cups they serve their drinks in. It’s estimated that there are 2.5bn of these cups thrown away in the UK every year, and the consumer group have warned that consumers are finding the ‘mixed materials’ used in the cups by the retailers and many don’t think they can be recycled.
They are urging retailers to take more responsibility towards the environment and over in the survey, over 50% of the 2,471 subjects who responded said that they threw these cups in with the general waste. Although these paper cups are 95% cardboard, the thin Polyethylene coating inside accounts for the other 5%. These keeps your coffee warm and the cup firm but can’t be processed at the paper mills where the cardboard goes for recycling.
Which? say that the attempts retailers are making to stem this tide of cups that are going in the waste instead of being recycled varies from company to company, and they have called on them to do more. One of the biggest retailers of takeaway drinks in the UK is Starbucks, and they have pledged to increase the amount of drinks they sell in reusable cups, and are also offering a 25p discount for those who bring their own cup or mug.
This is in stark contrast to Greggs, the bakery chain. They say that once the cups leave their premises they are the sole responsibility of the customer and it has nothing to do with them how these cups are disposed of. Costa Coffee in the meantime have reduced the weight of the 140m cups that it uses every year, and both companies say that their logos advertising recycling is prove of their commitment to the environment.
The investigation has concluded however that simply putting a recycling logo on a cup does mean that it can necessarily be recycled once it has left the shop, and more clarification is needed for customers on exactly which mixed material cups can be recycled, and in which recycling bins they should be placed.