Costa replaces coffee cup recycling logo with 'Tidy Man' in war on waste pledge

EXCLUSIVE: Costa Coffee is to remove the recycling symbol from all of its paper cups and is now trialling in-store recycling systems at 50 of its UK stores as it ramps up plans to "lead the industry" in the fight against coffee cup waste.

The white 'Mobius Loop' recycling symbol on the base of the coffee cup is to be replaced by the green Tidy Man logo. Photo: costacoffeeuk/Flickr

The white 'Mobius Loop' recycling symbol on the base of the coffee cup is to be replaced by the green Tidy Man logo. Photo: costacoffeeuk/Flickr

Speaking to edie just before Hugh’s War on Waste aired on BBC One on Thursday night (28 July), Costa’s energy and environment manager Ollie Rosevear confirmed that the Mobius Loop symbol - the three arrows in a triangle – has been replaced by the iconic ‘Tidy Man’ logo to encourage more consumers to responsibly dispose of their cups.

“We’re obviously hugely concerned about this issue and we understand its importance to our customers,” Rosevear said. “Until we have absolute clarity as to whether our cups are being recycled, we’ve made the decision to remove the Mobius Loop from our cup and replace it with the Tidyman to push for more responsible disposal of the cup.”

However, at the time of writing this story, an edie team member purchased a coffee from a Costa Express outlet (image below) which still displayed the recycling logo and did not display the Tidyman symbol, indicating the change is yet to take full effect.

A Costa cup purchased by an edie team member earlier today (28 July) still displays the 'Mobius Loop' recycling logo, which is to be replaced with the Tidy Man 'in a few weeks'.

The Whitbread-owned company, which is Britain’s largest coffee seller, joins fellow retailers Starbucks and Caffe Nero (all of which were singled out in Hugh's War on Waste) in excluding the recycling symbol from paper cups, as the industry now comes to terms with the rising numbers of single-use cups being discarded rather than recycled.

As TV chef-turned eco warrior Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall revealed in his War on Waste show, more than 5,000 coffee cups are now thrown away every minute in the UK, but less than 1% of those are actually being recycled. High street brands have therefore been "misleading" the public when it comes to their cups being recyclable, Fearnley-Whittingstall says.

In-store recycling

Rosevear, who was speaking to edie for a special edition of the Sustainable Business Covered podcast, went on to reveal that Costa is now looking to take the challenge head on, by rolling out recycling systems within its own stores to reduce the number of cups that are incorrectly disposed of.

“We’ve been doing some tests across 50 sites in Manchester and London,” Rosevear said. “With in-store recycling, we’re actually recovering cups directly from the store, backhauling them and then they are recycled by our partner Veolia, so that we have full responsibility for the waste we have direct control over.”

The coffee shop chain - which was the first official signatory of the Paper Cup Manifesto to increase the recovery and recycling of paper cups - also recently partnered with Keep Britain Tidy to offer a money-off incentive to anyone who brings a reusable cup into the store, as a way of driving consumer behaviour change on the issue. 

And Costa's revamped war on waste action plan doesn't stop there.  Rosevear went on to reveal that the company has just invested "a significant amount of money" into new research with Sheffield Univeristy to help it create more customer-focused solutions.

"When a customer walks out the door, where will their cup end up?," Rosevear added. "Are they going back into their offices, does the cup end up in household waste, or in food bins? If we can find that out through this research then we can work out how the cups should be properly processed.

"Onwards from that, once those cups get into the recycling process, what happens next? Are they making their way through mixed recycling facilities? Where are the key challenges occurring? That's what we're hoping to find out."

Looking ahead, Rosevear believes tonight's War on Waste episode will prove "beneficial" in helping to raise awareness of the coffee cup recycling issue. But it's an issue that will only be tackled with effecitve collaboration throughout the supply chain.

"Hopefully we will now move towards a more sustainable future," he concluded. "It’s very much about collaboration - unless everyone works across the supply chain, we’re never going to fix this issue."

Starbucks response

Meanwhile, a sustainability representative for fellow coffee retailer Starbucks - which was also singled out by Hugh's War on Waste - declined to speak with edie about how it is tackling the paper cup recycling issue. A spokesperson for the brand did, however, submit a comment via email.

The Starbucks UK spokesperson said: "We are committed to reducing the impact of waste generated in our stores. Reusable cups are a key part of our overall waste reduction strategy – and we have been offering a money off incentive to anyone who brings in a reusable cup for over a decade.

"The ability to recycle our take-away cups, whether at home, at work, in public spaces or in our stores, is dependent upon many factors, including local government policies and access to recycling markets such as paper mills and plastic processors. For this reason, we don’t include recycling symbols on our paper cups.

"We are always looking at ways we can help to make more of a difference and are actively exploring initiatives and partnerships, both as a business and as an industry. This includes undertaking a trial with our waste management supplier Veolia on cup segregation and collection. We are also exploring potential solutions with cup suppliers, including testing Frugalpac on our standards for safety and quality."

LISTEN: The Sustainable Business Covered podcast - Episode 07 - How to win the war on waste coffee cups

Listen to this special episode of the Sustainable Business Covered podcast, exploring the potential answers to the coffee cup conundrum.

In the hour-long episode, broadcast just before Hugh's War on Waste aired, we spoke to Simply Cups co-founder Peter Goodwin, circular economy consultant Sandy Rodger and Costa Coffee environment manager Ollie Rosevear to explore the key challenges and potential solutions to this highly complex issue.

Make sure you don't miss the next episode of the Sustainable Business Covered podcast - subscribe on iTunes here and bookmark this link where a new episode will appear every week.

Luke Nicholls


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