Tackling the Coffee Problem: 95 million cups a day – only 1% recycled

Today at Cawleys we were proud to wave goodbye to 22 bales of coffee cups that left our depot on their journey to be recycled in the North of England. The cups had been collected from various clients and partners and will be put to good use in supporting the circular economy.

So why do disposable coffee cups need to be recycled differently to other items?

Us Brits are known for our love of a ‘nice cuppa’. Historically, this cuppa referred to mug of hot tea but as we are all aware, this trend is changing. Stand in the queue at Costa or Starbucks and it’s likely that the orders for Skinny Lattes and Flat Whites will far out-weigh the requests for an Earl Grey.

95 million cups of coffee

With 95 million cups consumed each day, coffee is blatantly becoming our beverage of choice – especially when we’re on the go. Our lives are busy and we all know how it feels to need an instant caffeine fix. But how many of us stop to think about the damage our coffee habit is doing to the planet?

Sure, more and more of us are switching to re-usable coffee cups but life isn’t perfect. Sometimes they’re still in the dishwasher, sometimes we can’t fit them in our bags, sometimes we just forget them. Whatever the reason, many of us still receive our Cappuccinos in a single use coffee cup.’ So, what’s the big deal?’ I hear your cry. ’I make sure my used cup goes in with the recycling when I get to my destination, surly that’s alright?' – No actually, that is all wrong!

Disposable coffee cups are Different

Unlike other recyclable products such as cereal boxes, white plastic milk bottles, and tin cans, disposable coffee cups are made from 2 different material types, not one. And herein lies the problem.

For coffee cups to be recycled the polyethylene plastic inner lining (that is necessary to keep the liquid in) needs to be separated from the cardboard outer-layer of the cup.  Without this separation taking place recycling isn’t possible, and there are very few facilities in the UK that provide this service.

Only 1% of coffee cups are currently recycled

At Cawleys we work with a recycling plant in the North of England. Once the cups are segregated, collected and transported, the machinery in the plant then soaks and pulps the cups and separates the plastic from the cardboard. Both elements are then recycled separately

New items such as industrial strength hardboard and cardboard food containers are made from the separated cardboard fibres. Whist the plastic lining is recycled into items such as plastic play mats, building components and garden furniture.

Let's do more

Creating new items from recycled coffee cups reduces the need to use raw materials and prevents them from contributing to landfill and the resulting CO2 emissions. Cawleys would like to make the low levels of current coffee cup recycling a distant memory. All it takes is a little forward planning from businesses to segregate the coffee cups at the point of disposal, Cawleys and our partners will do the rest....

If you’d like FREE waste audit to see if your business would benefit from joining Cawleys Coffee Cup Recycling Scheme contact us today.


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