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

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

The white 'Mobius Loop' recycling symbol on the base of Costa coffee cups is being replaced by the green Tidy Man logo. Photo: CostaCoffeeUK/Flickr

The white 'Mobius Loop' recycling symbol on the base of Costa coffee cups is being replaced by the green Tidy Man logo. Photo: CostaCoffeeUK/Flickr

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and environment manager Ollie Rosevear confirmed that the Mobius Loop symbol – the three arrows in a triangle – has been replaced by the iconic ‘Tidy Man’ logo to encourage more consumers to responsibly dispose of their cups.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

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 feature the Tidyman symbol. A spokesperson for the chain has confirmed that the change will take full effect "in a few weeks". 

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".

As TV chef-turned environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall revealed in Thursday's episode of Hugh's War on Waste, more than 5,000 coffee cups are now thrown away every minute in the UK, but less than 1% of those cups 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 the programme.

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

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 roll out new recycling systems within its stores to reduce the number of cups that are incorrectly disposed of.

He added: “We’ve been doing some in-store recycling tests across 50 sites in Manchester and London. 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 that 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 independent environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy to offer a money-off incentive to anyone who brings a re-usable cup into the store, as a way of driving consumer behaviour change on the issue. 

And Costa's revamped coffee cup recycling action plan doesn't stop there. Rosevear added that the retailer 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? 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," Rosevear said.

"And 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 Thursday's episode of Hugh's War on Waste will prove "beneficial" in helping to raise awareness of the coffee cup recycling issue. But he claims 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," Rosevear added. "It’s very much about collaboration... Unless everyone works across the supply chain, we’re never going to fix this issue."

Starbucks response

Sustainability representatives for fellow coffee retailers Starbucks and Caffe Nero – which were critised by Fearnley-Whittingstall in his programme – declined to speak directly with edie about how they are tackling the paper cup recycling issue. But a spokesperson for Starbucks UK did submit a comment via email.

The Starbucks UK spokesperson said: "We are committed to reducing the impact of waste generated in our stores. Re-usable 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 takeaway 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 that 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 the 'Frugalpac' packaging, on our standards for safety and quality."


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

How can the coffee retailers win the War on Waste? The latest episode of edie's Sustainable Business Covered podcast explores the potential answers to the coffee cup recycling conundrum.

In this special-edition, hour-long episode, we speak to paper cup recycling expert Peter Goodwin, circular economy consultant Sandy Rodger and Costa Coffee's energy and environment manager Ollie Rosevear to discuss the key challenges and potential solutions to this highly complex issue.

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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