Coffee cups: major chains fail to match Costa’s recycling targets

'We’re hoping that via this announcement our other competitors will come on board with us as well – we can’t see why they wouldn’t'

Costa Coffee have pledged to recycle up to 500 million coffee cups a year by 2020

Costa Coffee has pledged to recycle as many disposable cups as it produces by 2020, raising the bar for action on disposable cup recycling in the UK.

Now the company has been joined by campaigners in calling for other major coffee chains to follow suit.

The action taken by the company involves paying waste management companies an additional £75 per tonne of waste, making it economically viable for them to take coffee cups to the specialist facilities that can recycle them.

“We’re hoping that via this announcement our other competitors will come on board with us as well – we can’t see why they wouldn’t,” said Costa managing director Dominic Paul upon the launch of the new scheme.

Asked by The Independent if they were planning to make similar recycling commitments, however, other coffee giants could not match the decisive action taken by Costa earlier this week.

SumOfUs, which has been heading up a campaign demanding Starbucks delivers a comprehensive plan for cutting its plastic pollution, said the silence from the American coffee giant “is now deafening”.

“Costa’s welcome move shows the coffee giants who built and profited from our throwaway culture have a responsibility to fix the problems they’ve created,” said Sondhya Gupta, senior campaigner at SumOfUs.

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Following a petition with over one million signatures, Starbucks committed money to a project with a “three-year ambition” to create a fully recyclable cup.

“In March, we announced a $10m (£7m) partnership with Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy to establish a groundbreaking consortium to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge," a spokesperson told The Independent.

“Through the NextGen Cup Challenge, the consortium will award accelerator grants to entrepreneurs working on ideas that could lead to the development of more sustainable cup solutions and, invite industry participation and partnership on the way to identifying a global solution.”

While the action taken by Starbucks was welcomed by a coalition of environmental organisations, industry experts have pointed out that the capacity already exists in the UK to recycle coffee cups – the issue is providing the infrastructure to get them there.

When approached by The Independent, Laura Gutowski, strategy and innovation director at Pret A Manger said “Packaging plays a big role at Pret and we know we have lots of work to do to reduce the impact it has on the environment”.

“In 2017 we trialled collecting paper cups in some shops in London and Manchester. We learnt a great deal from this trial – such as how do we encourage more customers to participate – and we’re working through those learnings so that we can launch new trials this year.”

Caffe Nero, the other major UK coffee chain, had not responded to The Independent’s request at the time of publication.

Costa Coffee’s announcement follows The Independent’s Cut the Cup Waste campaign, which the company’s managing director Mr Paul acknowledged as highlighting “the importance of finding a solution to this issue”.

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