How green are your takeaway coffee cups? If you’re like most coffee shops and coffee suppliers, probably not very. A lot of coffee consumers, and even coffee shop owners, believe that the cardboard cup used for coffee bought to-go is recyclable.
It is. But only in at a couple of specialist recycling sites in the UK, and not through the standard domestic or commercial recycling collections.
Most takeaway coffee cups are made of paper or cardboard, and then wrapped in a plastic called polyethylene. It’s the same process as used for takeaway sandwich boxes. The problem is that up to 70% of the cardboard comes from virgin pulp, and the process for separating the plastic coating from the rest of the cup is beyond the capability of the usual recycling centres.
Only 1 in 400 cups is recycled. 7 million cups are used daily. 2.5bn a year.
Which creates an awful lot of environmentally damaging landfill.
So what can your business do about it?
- The first and simplest initiative – which your regulars may adopt – is to offer a discount for customers bringing in their own reusable cup.
- The second idea is to buy in one of the few truly recyclable and/or compostable coffee cups. They do exist, they may cost you more, but right now you’ll have an almost unique selling point for the eco-conscious customer.
- The third option is to send your customers to the nearest Costa Coffee. Not to buy their drinks, of course – but to dispose of their used cups. Costa has pledged to recycle all paper cups left in store, even those of its competitors. But who wants to push their customers into the hands of the big chains?
- The fourth option is to sign up to specialist collection services. The only option right now is run by Simply Cups. Your customers’ discarded cups could in time be turned into anything from a pen to a park bench. That’s better than taking 30 years or more to decompose in landfill.
Lastly, keep an eye out for new street recycling projects. After a successful trial in Manchester, recycling bins specifically for coffee cups are being introduced in London’s Square Mile. That’s great if you’re in the City, but it’ll be some time before you see such a scheme come your way if you’re elsewhere in the country.