Food Waste

City of London declares ambition to recycle half a million cups in one month

Thanks to an initiative taking place in London’s Square Mile, which holds the UK’s largest concentration of offices, April will see the launch of the UK’s biggest push to tackle the issue of coffee cup waste.

Led by environmental charity, Hubbub, alongside partners Lloyd’s, Eversheds, and a range of other businesses, coffee cup recycling facilities are to be employed across the city as part of the Square Mile Challenge.

Currently, over seven million coffee cups are thrown away every single day across the UK, though only one per cent of this figure are thought to be recycled.

Although it is commonly thought that coffee cups are recyclable, the issue lies within the cups as a plastic film is often installed to ensure that they do not leak, which means that they can only rarely be recycled.

The recycling methods used within the Square Mile Challenge means that the cups will be processed to create a plastic or recovered fibre materials.

Wendy Mead, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Environment Committee, said:

We are very excited that the City of London will be the first area in the UK to undertake such a significant commitment to tackling the problem of coffee cup waste.

“In April we are installing facilities to collect disposable coffee cups on the street and in stations, coffee shops and businesses across the Square Mile and our ambition is to recycle half a million cups in that first month.”

The initiative has only been made possible with the support from Bunzl Catering Suppliers, Costa, Marks and Spencer, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Pret A Manger, Starbucks and a group of the leading coffee cup manufacturers.

It follows the launch of the Paper Cup Manifesto in June 2016, which garnered over 40 signatories from companies involved in the coffee industry, committing to improve recovery and increase recycling of paper cups.

Gavin Ellis Co-Founder of Hubbub, said:

This is a big step up from the pilot scheme we have been running in Manchester, which has seen 20,000 cups recycled from one street over three months.

“With the collaboration of so many key organisations, we believe this will be a huge step forward in tackling a challenging environmental issue and we aim to build on from April to recycle five million cups from the Square Mile by the end of 2017.

“We hope that by making a success of a scheme of this scale, we will encourage other parts of the UK to follow suit and would hope to reach a point where recycling levels for coffee cups are on a par with those for drinks cans and bottles.”

Organisations interested introducing workplace coffee cup recycling can find all the available information here.


Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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