The London Square Mile recycling challenge: raising awareness of the coffee cup conundrum

The City of London Corporation has launched a new scheme to encourage both consumer awareness of waste and provide easier access to disposable coffee cup recycling. Over 400,000 workers commute into the City each day, and that means they must be fuelled by a lot of coffee! Yet sadly only roughly 1% of all coffee cups in the UK are actually recycled, with only a handful of facilities in the country having the means to process the plastic-lined paper. The City of London is aiming to collect disposable coffee cups and arrange for them to be recycled at one of these plants.

The recycled fibre will be turned into new products, such as benches or chairs and will likely be used to furnish an outdoor community space and café that’s due to open in the City in 2018. Now that’s what we call the circle of life! 

The scheme aims to collect half a million disposable coffee cups a month through strategically placed big yellow cup-shaped bins at key commuter hubs. The initiative has also partnered with local coffee shops and businesses to further encourage waste reduction. Participating employers include Deloitte and Prudential.

Whilst we would prefer to see people using their reusable cups more often, we have to offer a huge kudos to the City of London in taking the first step to lower the carbon footprint of our coffee drinking habits. Gavin Ellis, Co-founder of environmental charity Hubbub said: “It would be easy to suggest that everyone should use reusable cups for our hot drinks, but the reality is that disposable cups are being used in their millions and so we have to deliver a solution to this issue.  Alongside their participation in the development of recycling solutions, it’s great to see that many retailers are also now providing discounts for customers using reusable cups and are investigating finding long-term solutions to ensure cups can be more widely recycled in the UK”. 

The disposable coffee cup issue has definitely increased consumer awareness, “a Cardiff University study found that financial incentives, re-usable alternatives, and clear messaging reminding customers of the environmental impact of single use coffee cups all had a direct impact on consumer behaviour. A combination of all increased the use of reusable cups in one cafe from 5.1% to 17.4%.” 

We at the Simplr Co couldn’t be more excited to witness this progress and hope to be a part of this bigger shift in consumer consciousness. So although we fully support wider availability of disposable coffee cup recycling points, we know that the energy and resources involved in creating the cups in the first place and then recycling them into a new product still have an environmental impact and the big shift that needs to happen is in consumer perceptions around convenience and consumption and building new habits of carrying around our reusable coffee cups. If we remember to bring the reusable carrier bag when going to the supermarket, why can’t we alter out behavior to remember our reusable coffee cups as well?


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