Giant coffee cup bins invade Manchester in an attempt to recycle 20,000 paper cups

Thanks to the efforts of a host of retailers including Caffé Nero, Costa and McDonald's, the streets of Manchester will soon be inundated with giant coffee cup bins, as charity Hubbub attempts to save 20,000 paper cups from ending up in landfill.

On Wednesday (12 October), Hubbub will team up with the aforementioned companies – as well as Greggs, KFC, Nestlé, Pret and Waitrose and local authorities – to launch the #1MoreShot social experiment campaign. For the next three months, eleven giant coffee cup bins will be placed down Oxford Road in Manchester to solely collect paper coffee cups.

Hubbub’s co-founder Gavin Ellis said: “This new initiative will test an innovative new technology and discover whether the public will separate out their coffee cups if specialist bins are provided. We urgently need to change the way we dispose of the 2.5 billion paper cups that are thrown away every year, as currently only 1 in 400 cups are being recycled. If this is successful, it can be extended to other cities across the UK as a number of local authorities have already put their name forward.”

The initiative will aim to collect 20,000 paper cups, which will be recycled into 15,000 plastic flower pot holders to be used in community gardens around the area. The design process will be overseen by polymer experts Nextek and ashortwalk – which specialise in turning coffee cups into a unique polymer.

While the issues surrounding paper cups have been brought to light on a national level by the War on Waste series, Manchester is feeling the brunt of the issue. On average 272,602 disposable paper cups are used daily in Manchester, and litter, fly-tipping and street cleaning is costing the City Council £7.5m annually.

The fallout from the War on Waste series has already led to Starbucks launching a trial partnership with FrugalPac, which will see the coffee shop chain trial a recyclable coffee cup made from 100% paper. Elsewhere, Costa Coffee has removed the recycling symbol from all of its paper cups and is now trialling in-store recycling systems at 50 of its UK stores.

The campaign will finish in December and if deemed a success will be rolled out to a number of areas which have already signed up to expand the scheme. At the heart of the campaign is a behavioral drive, but consumers will also be educated on the recyclability of paper cups, which are often difficult to recycle because they are sealed with a polyethylene (plastic) lining on the interior.

Litter legacy

Coffee cups form just one part of the UK’s ongoing litter issues. Innovative bins – including a litter lounge – have already been used to help reduce the amount of cigarette butts appearing on the streets. Wrigley and Keep Britain Tidy have also slashed litter rates by 30% through informative charity bin trials.

With litter costing the UK an estimated £800m annually in clean-up, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has today (11 October) launched a new report calling on brands and the Government to adopt an Extended Produce Responsibility (EPR) scheme.

The EPR approach would place a 0.5p levy on all cigarettes and pieces of chewing gum produced by brands, with the ESA claiming that it could generate around £300m for “cash-strapped” local authorities.

Matt Mace

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