Selfridges’ yellow shopping bags to be made from coffee cups

Selfridges has teamed up with waste management firm Veolia and British papermaker James Cropper to reprocess disposable coffee cup waste into yellow shopping bags in a closed-loop system.

Old disposable cups at Selfridges’ flagship Oxford Street store will undergo a separation process before being delivered to James Cropper at its CupCycling plant in Cumbria, where they will be turned into paper and converted into the store’s distinguished yellow bags.

Selfridges director of retail projects Chris Brant said: “With our partners James Cropper and Veolia, we can take coffee cups, a waste product of ours, and transform them into our yellow kraft bags, thereby closing the loop on that particular waste stream.

“Not only that, but the bags can still be recycled for years to come. We’re proud to be the first retailer to upcycle our cups in this way. Our customers are becoming ever more aware of global waste issues and I think they will appreciate the story behind the bag.”

In the loop

More than 5,000 of coffee cups are discarded in the UK each minute, but less than 1% of these are actually recycled. Paper coffee cups are difficult to recycle because they are sealed with a polyethylene (plastic) lining on the interior, which can’t be recycled along with ordinary paper waste by local councils.

The CupCycling facility possesses the technology to separate the two components, turning the paper fibre into luxury papers and recycling the polyethylene into products such as plastic tubing and cable wraps. James Cropper insists that one large bag will contain the equivalent paper of one 8oz cup.

“This is a great example to show how coffee cups are being reused as part of the circular economy,” Veolia UK chief operating officer of public and commercial Gavin Graveson said.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to further encourage a mass collaboration between designers, manufacturers, vendors and consumers as we all have a part to play in making all of our packaging more environmentally friendly and ensuring our resources are kept in the loop for longer.”

In-store recycling

A similar initiative is underway at the Canary Wharf estate in London, where the property, retail and waste management sectors have joined forces to recycle and reuse coffee waste. Coffee cups, lids and coffee grounds generated by more than 300 shops, bars and restaurants across the estate are being recycled with the use of designated bins.

Costa Coffee has led the charge towards circularity in the coffee industry, with the recent rollout of a pioneering cup recycling scheme to more than 2,000 of its stores across the UK. Rival chain Rival brand Starbucks has also introduced its own in-store recycling bins for paper cups. Starbucks already offers various recycling initiatives in regards to paper cups, like trialling a 50p discount for customers that bring their own cups. 

edie’s Responsible Retail conference will be taking place on 20 September 2017 at the 99 City Road Conference Centre in London.

The conference will equip retailers, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders with the information and tools they need to accelerate the transition to more sustainable business practices, reduce long-term costs, improve brand reputation and increase profit margins.

Find out more and register to attend here.

George Ogleby

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