#InTheLoop: Hubbub and Starbucks invest in circular economy for coffee cups

As part of its partnership with Starbucks, environmental charity Hubbub has this week awarded funding to a string of projects aimed at creating a circular economy for coffee cups.

The winning projects are aiming to minimise the 7.8 million coffee cups which are landfilled or incinerated in the UK every day. Image: Hubbub

The winning projects are aiming to minimise the 7.8 million coffee cups which are landfilled or incinerated in the UK every day. Image: Hubbub

Called The Cup Fund, the scheme has seen 12 startups across the UK receive a grant of between £50,000 and £100,000 each to scale up their innovative products, systems and concepts.

The funding for the grants was raised through Starbucks’ 5p levy on paper cups, which it introduced to all 970 of its UK stores last summer.

Hubbub said it launched the Cup Fund because, although the UK now has enough specialist recycling facilities to process all of the disposable paper cups used nationwide every year, behaviour change and financing challenges are still preventing organisations throughout the on-the-go drinks sector’s value chain from collecting the cups and transporting them to these facilities.

Among the projects to have won funding are DS Smith’s cup takeback scheme for businesses. The scheme provides a box to offices, in which workers are encouraged to deposit their used coffee cups. Once full to their 700-cup capacity, the boxes are collected by Royal Mail and sent to be recycled into new paper products at DS Smith’s recycled paper mill.

DS Smith said it launched the scheme after its own research found that more than half (58%) of British workers who buy a takeaway coffee at least once a fortnight dispose of the cup at their workplace.

Other winners include the University of Northampton’s ambition to recycle 160,000 coffee cups from around the town’s most popular destinations and biggest workplaces. In order to ascertain where to place this recycling infrastructure, the University is working with a consortium of businesses, as well as the local council.

“The fund was developed in close collaboration with the recycling industry ensuring that all the collected cups will be recycled within the UK into a variety of new products including high-quality stationary and cardboard boxes,” Hubbub co-founder Trewin Restorick said.

“The investment in coffee cup recycling facilities will make it possible to recycle an extra 35 million cups per annum. The winning projects cover the heart of London, major cities, shopping centres, universities and motorway service stations.”

Swansea scheme

The allocation of The Cup Fund funding comes in the same week that Hubbub has launched #InTheLoop – a programme aimed at boosting recycling infrastructure and changing behaviours in on-the-go scenarios.

The scheme will see new recycling bins for materials such as plastic bottles, glass bottles, drinks cans and coffee cups installed across Swansea City Centre.

This infrastructure, co-funded by Swansea City Council, Hubbub and its business partners, will be complemented with a new communications campaign reminding residents and visitors to recycle when they’re out and about.

Interactive installations and events will also be put on, for the same purpose, and promoted across social media using the #InTheLoop hashtag.

#InTheLoop is modelled after Hubbub’s flagship on-the-go recycling scheme Leeds By Example. Launched last summer, the initiative has seen 124 new recycling points installed across Leeds City Centre, including machines which offer reward vouchers for each piece of packaging deposited, and bins that blow bubbles when used.

Before the scheme launched in June 2018, Hubbub investigated the proportion of Leeds residents and visitors who were regularly disposing of their plastic packaging, drinks cans and coffee cups in recycling bins while they were out and about, reaching a figure of 17%.

It now estimates that the proportion stands at 32%, after 600,000 coffee cups, 55,000 plastic bottles and 65,000 cans were collected through the scheme during its first six months of operation – results which have paved the way for a wider rollout in other cities.

Sarah George



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