Veolia to recycle 120 million coffee cups in 2019

Waste management firm Veolia has announced it will increase the number of coffee cups it collects for recycling annually by 300%, by working with retailers such as Costa, Starbucks and McDonald's on in-store collection services.

Following a successful year-long trial with some of the UK’s largest users of paper coffee cups – Costa, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Caffè Nero – Veolia has set the target to collect 120 million coffee cups for recycling in 2019.

“With a storm rightly brewing over disposable coffee cups in recent months, Veolia has responded by intensifying its efforts across the country to collect, sort and recycle millions of coffee cups which would otherwise be discarded,” Veolia’s chief technology and innovation officer Richard Kirkman said. “Our in-store and on the go solutions have real potential to capture every coffee cup in the country.

“We’re heading in the right direction, but there is still plenty more to do, with millions of disposable cups still not entering recycling streams. To continue this progress, more organisations need to provide in-store solutions and more consumers to use them.”

Every day in the UK, up to seven million coffee cups are thrown away, with less than 1% of these cups (only 1 in 400 coffee cups) thought to be recycled. The main challenge to date has been the plastic film lining the paper cups, which means they are rarely recyclable.

In 2017, Veolia commenced the rollout of specialist recycling bins, available for new and existing Veolia customers, to help with the emptying, stacking and collection of paper cups to be sent for recycling.

The in-store service sees used cups stored upside down to ensure they are free from contamination before they are baled up ready for treatment at paper pulping facilities, which recover the fibre and separate the polymer plastic liner from the cup. The cups are pulped and eventually turned into moulded fibre products such as coffee cup holders and egg boxes.

Storm in a coffee cup

The 300% increase in coffee cup collections builds on Veolia’s work to support Costa on its cup recycling programme, which aims to recycle up to 500 million coffee cups a year by 2020 – the equivalent of its entire annual sales of takeaway cups.

Costa has said it will pay a £70 supplement to incentivise waste collectors, enabling them to invest in infrastructure that can increase the collection rates of the cups.

Veolia has also piloted a partnership with Westminster City Council and the Heart of London Business Alliance – which represents 500 businesses and 100 property owners in the Piccadilly & St James’s and Leicester Square areas – to improve on-the-go recycling for citizens.

Street sweepers and dedicated collection bins have, to date, helped Veolia collect more than 100,000 paper coffee cups which may have otherwise been littered or sent to landfill.

Matt Mace

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