The War on Waste

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Coffee outlets have exploded on our highstreets, with most of us nowadays refusing to start our morning without a coffee. Within a minute or two of drinking our beloved beverage, we get that caffeine hit we’ve been craving and gain the momentum we need to start the day. 

Our love affair with lattes has resulted in up to 2.5 billion cups a year being chucked away, with less than 1 in 400 being recycled. Brands many people love are misleading customers about the recycling of their coffee cups, and this month the BBC documentary Hugh’s War on Waste highlighted this.


The Flat White Lies

Mainstream customers, expect businesses to make the right sustainability decisions for them, and we don’t expect to be misled. Those of us who pick up a coffee often take the trouble to ‘do the right thing’ with the empty cup, and throw it into a bin marked ‘mixed recycling’.

The truth is, these cups are barely recyclable at all! Part of the problem is the polyethylene coating inside the cups that sticks to the paper part of the cup, making it possible to drink your coffee, but impossible to recycle it through the normal public waste collection services. However, there is a company using a specialist facility in Cumbria called Simply Cups who can recycle our coffee cups. Yet they can only handle less than 6 million a year, which is equivalent to less 1% of the cups that we throw away!


Wake Up and Smell the Waste

We know it can be done, last year we saw the introduction of a charge on plastic bags which reduced their use by around 80% in the first few months, with many shoppers now taking a reusable bag with them most of the time.

If legislation worked on carrier bags, it could work on coffee cups. If we all paid an extra 5p for a drink, would it make a difference? We shouldn’t be interested in the term recyclable, but interested in the word recycled.

It’s estimated that the average city worker spends £416 on coffee a year alone, and Hugh is asking us to ‘wake up and smell the waste’ and demand change from big businesses and brands on social media. #WASTENOT