Simply Cups scales up to drive circular economy

A London-based paper cup recycling initiative that helps retailers and hospitality businesses close the loop on disposable coffee cups is expanding to recover additional waste materials and launching a roadmap to develop new local infrastructure.

Simply Cups – a partnership between Closed Loop Environmental Solutions (CLES) and Simply Waste Solutions (SWS) – will now collect beverage cartons, paper towels, cup lids, non-bottle PET packaging and coffee grounds.

At a stakeholder event in London yesterday (11 June), CLES director Peter Goodwin said: “We started with paper cups as they’re easy to identify. There’s 2.5 billion paper cups in the UK marketplace, but I dread to think what the capacity is of the other related materials – so there’s a huge opportunity here.

“The feedback that we have received over the course of the year has convinced us that that the hospitality sector is now crying out for a multi-faceted materials recovery program that breaks down Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR) even further, thereby extracting even greater value, whilst helping businesses move further up the waste hierarchy.

“Ultimately, the Simply Cups model is offering an alternative solution. We’ll bypass sorting facility, collect in multiple dispersed volumes and reprocess the materials.”

New members

The Simply Cups event saw an announcement that the scheme’s membership base – which already includes Costa Coffee, the John Lewis Partnership and Baxter Storey – has increased to 17 members, with Bunzl Catering Supplies, Benders Paper Cups and BASIS (The British Association for Sustainable Sport) all added to the mix.

Simply Cups uses sorting technology to separate the thin plastic lining from inside the cups from the paper exterior, creating two recyclable waste streams and effectively closing the loop on paper cup manufacturing.

The scheme has already recovered and recycled more than a million paper cups since its launch last summer, with an aim to recycle a further three million cups this year, and six million cups in 2016.


Now, in addition to branching out into new waste streams, Simply Cups is creating a ‘Closed Loop Roadmap’; to create new markets, better value and enhanced local infrastructure – based on the premise that recovering the feedstock needs to be financially sustainable for customers.

“The UK is hamstrung with short-termism in terms of political ambition to this issue,” added Goodwin. “We need more of a long-term vision to hedge risk in the supply chain; we need to disrupt the market and drive the value in post-consumer material – that’s where the roadmap comes in.”

The roadmap is a three-stage process: –

By 2025, Simply Cups wants to have developed a logistics and bulking centre, a paper cup recycling facility, a non-bottled PET facility and a coffee grounds facility – all in the London area.

In terms of funding for this, Simply Cups proposes that a contribution is added to consumers’ bills to assist in the development of infrastructure and technology. “Fundamentally, the consumer is going to have to fund this, but no-one’s had the confidence to say that,” said Goodwin. “It’s time to be honest with the consumer and get their help with this.”

Luke Nicholls

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