Yes they are. Paper cups can be taken to any of the in-store recycling points that are offered by most major coffee chains including Costa Coffee, Caffè Nero, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Greggs and Pret A Manger. Cups don’t need to be taken back to the store they were purchased from - any brand of cup can be recycled in any store. Cups can also be taken to ACE UK carton recycling bring banks. There are now more than 4,800 paper cup recycling points in the UK provided through a network of bring banks, in-store take-back opportunities and over 20 national and regional waste operators providing cup collection services to offices and businesses as part of their waste collection service. There are also a number of high street collections launched, such as those in Leeds, Cardiff, Glasgow, Swansea, Edinburgh and Portsmouth, plus new national post back services and a small number of local authorities that are collecting cups from the kerbside. There are also a number of collection schemes on high streets in areas such as Leeds, Cardiff, Glasgow, Swansea, Edinburgh and Portsmouth. To find your nearest cup recycling point please visit www.recyclenow.com
Q. What happens to the cups that are sent for
The recycling arrangements for cups are similar to that of other materials. After collection from recycling containers, cups are usually bulked up at transport facilities and delivered to one of five reprocessing facilities in the UK. These reprocessors include DS Smith in Kent, ACE/Sonocco in Halifax, and James Cropper in Cumbria. There are 61,000 tonnes of capacity across three of these facilities alone and they collectively have enough capacity to treat all the paper cups generated in the UK. During the recycling process, the cups are typically put into a pulper to separate the paper fibres from the poly-ethylene layer. The fibres are long and strong so can be used to make high quality products such as luxury stationery and paper and can be recycled up to six times. The poly-ethylene is often used to make new plastic products such as benches or garden furniture.
Q. Why can't everyone use a reusable cup?
The PCRRG welcomes the use of reusable cups and there are many innovative and easy to use designs available. PCRRG retail members are actively promoting the use of reusable cups, for example, by issuing or selling customers reusable cups and offering discounted retail prices for coffee. However, only a small percentage of reusable cups are likely to be used as a replacement to paper cups because of consumer preferences and the on-the-go nature of coffee sales. For example, consumers may not be able to carry a reusable cup with them in certain circumstances, they may make an impromptu purchase of coffee when they don’t have their reusable cup with them or they may be unable to clean a cup properly between uses while on-the-go. In 2018 , Public Health England raised concerns that reusable cups could harbour dangerous bacteria if not properly washed each time they are used. Thorough cleansing of reusable cups between uses is important to prevent hygiene challenges at point of service for staff and customers. It is also important to consider the environmental impact of reusable cups as they may need a large number of uses before they provide an environmental benefit in comparison to paper cups.
Q. How can i set up a cup recycling scheme at
Recycling paper cups is a great way to improve your organisation’s environmental performance, engage staff and publicly report positive achievements. A good first step is usually to check what service your current collection contractor can provide. Many providers will be able to supply internal bins and communication materials as well as collecting cups for recycling. Alternatively, a list of companies that can undertake cup collections is available at www.pcrrg.uk/cup-collectors Some tips for establishing a good cup collection scheme are to:
Locate cup collection containers in areas where cups are most often disposed of (you may wish to undertake an assessment of waste before launching the scheme to help identify the best locations). Remember that in order to help prevent cups becoming contaminated with non-recyclable items you should provide somewhere for staff to dispose of materials that are not accepted for recycling such as liquids, stirrers and lids.
Clearly communicate with staff to engage them positively in using the scheme and ensure they know how and where to recycle.
Monitor the scheme to report performance, inform ongoing communications to staff and make adjustments where needed.
Q. How many paper cups are used in the UK each year AND WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN TERMS OF
Based on the number of outlets serving coffee, according to research from Allegra Strategies (source - Project Cafe), we believe that the number of cups used in the UK is approximately 2.5billion paper cups per year. Three years ago, TV celebrity Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall quoted in his programme ‘War on Waste’, that just 1:400 paper cups used on our high streets were being recycled in the UK. In 2018 it was estimated that 1:25 cups were recycled and the PCRRG expects this to increase to 1:12 in future. In relation to the contribution to the overall waste stream, Defra has calculated that paper coffee cups make up just 0.7% of total paper packaging waste and INCPEN states they make up 0.1% of the total volume of household waste. An audit by Keep Scotland Beautiful has shown cups account for around 0.5% of littered items.
Q. WHY DOESN’T THE INDUSTRY USE NEW CUP
FORMATS WITH REMOVABLE LININGS?
The PCRRG welcomes all innovations that help address the problem of recycling more paper cups. However material innovations do not address the issues of getting the used cup to the correct facility. The PCRRG is working hard on developments in recovery and recycling which will make the real difference. There is also the matter of scalability. Supplying a major retailer with the number of cups they require does not happen overnight as it requires correct production, distribution and logistics to ensure ongoing supply.
Q. Why not switch to compostable or bio
The PCRRG welcomes innovation and sees a role of all material formats in reaching effective recovery and recycling solutions. Compostable and bio-degradable cups are part of this solution. However, these formats must arrive at the right reprocessing facility or they do not break down in the intended way. If you are considering purchasing cups for your business it is advisable to talk to your waste management collection contractor about the right collection and disposal arrangements.
Q. Why not tax paper cups like the carrier bag
The PCRRG believes that the issue of paper cups is not similar to the ‘bag tax’ and that the greatest impact on creating a sustainable cup supply chain can be achieved via cohesive action to improve infrastructure, change consumer behaviour through education and install conveniently located recycling points. Our commitment to voluntary action has demonstrated the extent of what is possible through market-led solutions; coffee cup recycling rates increased from an estimated 1:400 to 1:25 in just two years, there are more than 4,800 UK paper cup recycling points and capacity now exists to recycle all the papers cups used in the UK. The concept of a tax proposed on paper cups cannot be compared like-for-like with the imposition of the ‘bag tax’. For example, a tax could significantly and disproportionately increase the product cost for the consumer. In addition, the need to ensure hygiene is maintained for consumer and operator alike at all times along with the practicalities of consumers carrying a reusable cup means that the practice is unlikely to become wide-spread.
Q. Why not introduce a Deposit Return Scheme and
get consumers to return their cups?
The challenge here is that the value of the returned cup is very low and motivating consumers to return used cups in a condition good enough to recycle for very little reward is considered unlikely. The introduction of a deposit scheme will also not address the lack of current recycling infrastructure for paper cups. From a retail perspective, there are additional considerations associated with deposit schemes, such as retail space required for storage, waste handling restrictions and implications for cost to the consumer at point of sale. Therefore the group does not support the concept of deposit return schemes for cups.
Q. Are forests being destroyed to make paper cups?
No. PCRRG members that make cups from virgin fibres use 100% sustainable sources where forestry plays a vital role in the local economy and ecological management. Using wood fibre from forests with these sound management practices has a positive environmental outcome. In Europe, forests are growing by 0.8 million ha a year and in the last 20 years have grown by 16 million ha - an area roughly twice the size of Ireland. The majority of harvested trees are used for timber in the construction sector - just 20% is used for paper and paperboard production. In the UK we consume 9 million tonnes of paper and board annually of which cups account for 0.27%, the rest goes to paper, paper products and newsprint for newspaper and magazines. Because most cups are made from virgin paper the fibres are long and strong. These fibres can be recycled multiple times and play an important role in ensuring that fibre products produced from recycled cups are high quality. If you are considering purchasing cups made from virgin fibre for business use, please check that the supplier will provide cups from a certified forestry scheme such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Q. What activity is actually planned? How long will
the Manifesto run for?
The PCRRG working groups (Recycling & Infrastructure, Design & Product Sustainability, Communications & Engagement, Litter) have been developing detailed delivery plans for each of the focus areas of the Manifesto. The Manifesto will be in place until the objectives are achieved.
Q. Is this just the industry’s knee jerk reaction to
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “War on Waste”
The PCRRG has been working for some time on the issues presented by recycling paper cups and the topic was widely debated at the FPA Environment seminar in January 2016. However, the PCRRG acknowledges that more needs to be done and more quickly. The PCRRG welcomes the attention to the issue that has been generated by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programme and that it has kick started the whole supply chain to take action.