Hubbub’s coffee cup recycling success garners interest from abroad

Community campaigns in Manchester and London to promote the recyclability of high-street paper coffee cups have collected more than 1.2m cups, with the findings set to pass on to Germany and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The 1 More Shot campaign from Hubbub collected almost 30,000 used coffee cups in bright yellow cup-shaped campaign bins on Oxford Road in Manchester between October and February. The success of the trial saw the initiative extended to London in April, where the Square Mile Challenge collected 1.2m cups for recycling.

The trials have shaped consumer behaviour towards coffee cup recycling, which suffer from recycling rates of less than 1%. The campaigns have caught the attention of manufacturers and retailers in Germany, and Hubbub will explore the use of similar trials in Cologne or Munich.

A meeting has been held between Hubbub and Sadiq Khan’s environment team, and the results of the trials will be used the inform the launch of the Mayor’s forthcoming strategy to reduce litter and improve waste management.

The Manchester trials surpassed an original target to save 20,000 paper cups from ending up in landfill, and was supported by high-street brands including Costa, McDonald’s, Waitrose and Caffé Nero.  

The Square Mile Challenge was more ambitious in nature. Companies involved in the Manchester trials were accompanied by Marks & Spencer and coffee cup manufacturers to help promote the initiative. It aimed to recycle 500,000 cups in one month and has sped past that goal.

The cups from both challenges have been recycled into bird feeders, plant pot holders and chalk boards by product designers Ashortwalk, which has previously worked with Nextek on a recycling solution.

Make coffee not war

The spotlight on coffee cup recyclability was born from a high-profile “War on Waste” media campaign from celebrity TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He argued that high-street coffee chains, with an emphasis on Costa and Starbuck, were greenwashing consumers over their products. Of the 5,000 coffee cups discarded each minute in the UK, less than 1% of these are actually recycled.

The backlash saw the named coffee chains implement various trials and initiatives to help recycle more cups. Costa Coffee launched a pioneering, in-house cup recycling scheme to more than 2,000 of its stores across the UK.

Costa also committed to replace the Mobius Loop symbol – the three arrows in a triangle – with the iconic ‘Tidy Man’ logo on its coffee cups, in a bid to encourage more consumers to responsibly dispose of their cups.

Rival brand Starbucks also followed with an in-store paper cup recycling bin. The launch of the recycling bins followed successful back-of-house trials that Starbucks had been running along with waste management providers Veolia.

Starbucks already offers various recycling initiatives in regards to paper cups, like trialling a 50p discount for customers that bring their own cups. 

Matt Mace

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