©Librairy VEOLIA

A coffee-to-go for recycling, please!

Posted on 13 February 2018.

UK businesses can now recycle disposable cups using Veolia’s simple, cost-effective collection and recycling service.

In the United Kingdom, only 1 cup in 400 is recycled.

This morning on your way to the office, you probably went to your favorite coffee shop and ordered a latte or espresso-to-go. Then you threw the cup in a trashcan, thinking it would be recycled. But in fact, it most likely was not…

The disposable cups we frequently use are virtually impossible to recycle because of their composition: a mixture of paper and a thin layer of plastic (polyethylene).

For example, in the United Kingdom only one cup in every 400 is recycled meaning 2.5 billion used cups are sent for energy recovery or to landfill every year – which is why Veolia has officially launched a coffee cup solution.

Stacked and recycled!

The principle: to separate the cup from the general waste stream as soon as the consumer has finished their drink. This early separation is vital, as one of the biggest challenges in coffee cup recycling is contamination – when cups are mixed in with the general waste stream and get damaged, mainly by food waste.

This early separation results in better quality recycled materials, which can then be re-used to produce new products.

The solution is now available to existing UK customers nationwide and to potential new customers, as part of a packaged service, and offers multiple service options. These include a bespoke  designed in-house recycling bin, signage and key messages for consumers, a bulk collection option and a post back service – which is available to all business types nationally.

Veolia’s solution enables businesses and public institutions to send their cups to a specialised processing plant, using a dedicated transport service, where they will be recycled.

Once collected, Veolia decontaminates the cups, which are then sent to plants where the paper is separated from the plastic coating. The recovered paper fibers can be re-used for a wide range of applications, such as egg cartons, cup sleeves and cellulose wadding for insulating homes.

Mobilising the general public

Developed in partnership with Starbucks and Costa Coffee, the solution has been extensively tested over recent months. In January 2017, Costa Coffee launched a recycling scheme in its UK stores.

The project is also backed by a study of consumer practices. Led by YouGov, the study is encouraging: a large majority of people (88%) would use a special bin if they knew their cup would be recycled. And almost half (47%) would be willing to keep their cups longer if they knew they were going to pass a special bin, and almost a quarter (24%) would make a detour to use one.

The biggest consumers of hot beverages on-the-go most often throw away their cups at work (52%), or in other places on their route such as railway and subway stations.