The Square Mile Challenge will launch in London’s Square Mile, which holds the UK’s biggest concentration of office workers and most regular coffee customers.
The City of London, Network Rail, national coffee retailers and some of the Square Mile’s biggest employers, including Lloyd’s and Eversheds, are joining the scheme led by environmental charity Hubbub, in partnership with recycling company Simply Cups, to introduce coffee cup recycling facilities across the city.
Up to seven million coffee cups are thrown away daily across the UK, with less than 1% of these cups thought to be recycled.
The plastic film on the inside of paper cups makes recycling partuclarly difficult.
The recycling methods used for the Square Mile Challenge will process the cups to create either a plastic or recovered fibre material which is made into new products.
The initiative follows a pilot scheme run in Manchester last year which has seen 20,000 cups recycled from one street over three months.
Gavin Ellis, co-founder of Hubbub, said: “With the collaboration of so many key organisations, we believe this will be a huge step forward in tackling a challenging environmental issue and we aim to build on from April to recycle five million cups from the Square Mile by the end of 2017.”
He added that he hoped the scheme will encourage other parts of the UK to follow suit and would hope to reach a point where recycling levels for coffee cups are on a par with those for drinks cans and bottles.
This initiative has been made possible with the support of Bunzl Catering Suppliers, Costa, Marks and Spencer, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Pret A Manger, Starbucks and a group of the leading coffee cup manufacturers.
Martin Kersh, executive director of The Foodservice Packaging Association, welcomed the initiative. “This is an excellent initiative from Hubbub and we fully endorse the campaign together with the excellent work of Simply Cups. Praise must go to Huhtamaki and Bunzl Catering Supplies who have provided funding together with Pret A Manger, Costa, McDonald’s Restaurants, Starbucks, Marks & Spencer and Nestle.
He added that it demonstrated the industry’s commitment but called for more funding and further commitment to meet the challenges packaging is facing and avoid some of the suggested legislative actions that are receiving increasing publicity.
“The Square Mile challenge will lead to more initiatives and serves to demonstrate the sector is capable of finding solutions and demonstrates the need for us all to work together and the benefits of doing so.”
Wendy Mead, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Environment Committee, said: “We are very excited that the City of London will be the first area in the UK to undertake such a significant commitment to tackling the problem of coffee cup waste. In April we are installing facilities to collect disposable coffee cups on the street and in stations, coffee shops and businesses across the Square Mile and our ambition is to recycle half a million cups in that first month.”
The coffee cups collected can be remade into a range of items, from pencils to park benches, which will be donated to local community projects and schools and used to reward those contributing the most to the recycling effort during the challenge.
Peter Goodwin, director of Simply Cups, said: “It’s fantastic that big businesses are supporting the Square Mile Challenge. Large numbers of coffee cups are binned in offices as people arrive at work or pop out for coffees throughout the day. We’d like to see responsible disposal of these become as commonplace as paper recycling schemes in offices and we hope that seeing the products that can be produced from their recycled cups will help motivate city workers to support the recycling effort.”
Shirine Khoury-Haq, chief operating officer at Lloyd’s said: “Most of us grab a cup of coffee or tea at least once a day, and in the same way that disposing of a plastic bottle or can responsibly is becoming the norm, we can achieve the same thing with coffee cups.”
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