Coffee Cups, An Unknown Quantity

Coffee Cups, An Unknown Quantity

Annually in the United Kingdom 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown into rubbish bins. This figure equates to 7 million each day, and enough coffee cups to circle the earth five and a half times each year. Although pretty much all of these coffee cups end up in a bin, how many of them are actually recycled?

Each cup is branded as recyclable by the coffee chain using them, such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Greggs. Upon first glance, it may be obvious to assume that each cup is easily recycled being as the outside is made from paper, but this is a false thought. With the inside of each cup being coated in a plastic to waterproof the cup and help the drink maintain its heat, the disposable cup is very hard to recycle. To make matters worse, there are only three recycling plants in the UK with the correct facilities to correctly dispose of the cups. In 2017, research found that only one in every 400 of these takeaway coffee cups is actually recycled.

To help combat the potential effect that these cups could have on the environment, the UK’s members of parliament (MPs) are demanding a 25p charge every time a customer orders a hot drink and uses a disposable cup provided. Certain companies are already offering discounts on warm drinks if you take your own re-usable cup for them to fill. For example, Starbucks currently offers a discount for those who bring their own cups. Starbucks has also said it will begin a 5p cup charge in 20-25 of its London branches to try and encourage people to stop using the takeaway cups and make the public realise of the harm that each cup is doing to the environment.

Currently, it is estimated that only 1-2% of coffee drinkers respond to the discounts offered for using a re-usable cup, but with MPs wanting the disposable cups banned by 2023, will more people take notice of this problem and act?

Author: Xavier Lewis Rodriguez / Bridging to the Future