At last it seems that action will be taken on the sheer volume of unrecycled disposable coffee cups Britain gets through. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s a startling 2.5 billion polyethylene-lined virgin-pulp cardboard cups a year. Most consumers – and maybe even many independent coffee shop owners and workers – don’t even realise that the standard cardboard coffee cup isn’t recyclable in standard facilities. The problem is twofold: the polyethylene liner is really tricky to separate from the cardboard, and the cardboard used is virgin pulp, because it’s going to contain comestibles. There are only three facilities in the whole of the UK capable of separating the two component parts.
The result? Only one in 400 cups are recycled. Half a million end up as litter daily.
Following an environmental audit committee report, MPs have called for a 25p levy – the badly named latte levy – on coffee bought in takeaway cups, a ban on difficult-to-recycle coffee cups by 2023, and better labelling on the cups themselves in order to educate the public.
This is going to have a direct effect on your business, if you sell any hot drinks – including soups, of course – in standard disposable cardboard cups. If MPs’ proposals go ahead, you’ll be charging for every takeaway cup and tracking those payments to ensure you pass the money onto the treasury. The money will most likely be ringfenced and invested in better reprocessing facilities. That’s a very, very good thing for the environment, but not such a good thing for your customers, your costs, or the simplicity of your business admin.
It’s time to jump the gun and dodge the bullet. We’ve spoken before about the various alternatives to disposable coffee cups – from rewarding customers with a discount for bringing their own reusable coffee cups to town centre initiatives for collecting unrecyclable coffee cups or contacting the few cup recyclers directly. You need to weigh up and act in all directions.
But the simplest way of avoiding the new levy when it lands is to use fully recyclable or completely biodegradable coffee cups. And because not every tea shop, coffee house or general takeaway place is going to be quite so environmentally friendly or strategically switched on, you’ll gain some competitive advantage on price and eco credentials.
Here are a few options to investigate:
Fully recyclable coffee cups: Frugal Cup
Green Your Cup
Fully compostable coffee cups: Biopac
We think most coffee shop owners haven’t made the switch for two reasons: lack of awareness or a belief that these more environmentally friendly options are more expensive. Yet you’ll probably pay no more than £10 more per 500 cups (2p per cup!). Weigh that up against being forced to charge 25p more for a standard disposable cup and the right decision is transparently obvious.
With two very cold months ahead of us and the distraction of Christmas out of the way, there’s no better time to send customers on their merry way with a warming brew – in a reusable, recyclable or compostable cup. Next week we’ll be dishing out some new year’s resolutions for your business – sensible strategic moves such as these are going to figure heavily!