back to top

Costa Will Now Recycle Your Cups In Store Because They Can't Be Recycled Almost Anywhere Else

The move follows the revelation last year that most paper coffee cups cannot be recycled unless taken to a specialist plant, meaning billions may have been sent to landfill.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Costa Coffee has launched a nationwide recycling scheme following criticism last year that a majority of takeaway cups are either incinerated or end up in landfill.

The UK's largest coffee chain, which has more than 2,000 stores, said it will drive used coffee cups to specialist recycling plants from stores. It will also recycle those of its competitors, including Starbucks and Caffè Nero, if customers hand them in.

The major coffee chains, including Starbucks and Caffè Nero, have recently been criticised for not selling recyclable cups. The chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall accused them during a campaign he ran in 2016 of having created a "takeout trash mountain".

Fearnley-Whittingstall said also that putting a used coffee cup in a recycling bin was "pointless" because the retailers had created cups that were "almost impossible to recycle".

At the time, coffee chains told BuzzFeed News the cups were "technically" recyclable; however, few councils have the specialist technology to facilitate separating the plastic laminate from the cup.

Some chains held recycling logos on the sleeves of the cups, which are recyclable, but the chef turned campaigner said this could mislead customers into thinking the entire cup was in fact recyclable.

After Costa announced the scheme some customers on Twitter criticised it and said the investment was only being made because "you can't recycle a cup".

@CostaCoffee but you can't fully recycle a cup, hence the reason for you having to remove the recycle logo on your cups!

Costa said that was "not true", but admitted there were only two plants in the UK where the cups could be recycled.

Not true.. Just there are only 2 in the UK that can recycle them! That's why we're collecting them in-store and tak… https://t.co/Bp5x8l60yM

The chain first announced its intention to run the recycling scheme in November, and said it was rolling it out after a successful trial at 45 stores. If customers bring in a reusable cup the firm will also offer a 25p discount, it said.

The coffee chain also said it was working with packaging companies to explore "manufacturing processes and test materials for a potential new takeaway cup" that would be widely recyclable. It did not disclose any time frame but said it hoped to test some internally over the next month.

BuzzFeed News asked other popular high street coffee chains if they had plans to replicate Costa Coffee's recycling programme.

Pret a Manger did not respond to specific questions about whether it would introduce a recycling scheme, or whether it would explore introducing fully recyclable cups.

A spokesperson said it would, however, be supporting an industry-wide initiative within the City of London in April to "trial some new initiatives with the aim of both encouraging customers to use fewer paper cups, and helping to improve the recovery and recycling rates". The company did not disclose details of what it intended to trial but said it would do so closer to the time.

The London-only initiative, called Square Mile Challenge, is also being supported by Starbucks, Costa, Nero, and other companies, including McDonald's and Marks & Spencer. It will seek to collect paper cups and recycle them into other materials, including pencils or park benches designed to be donated to schools and local community projects.

Caffè Nero, meanwhile, told BuzzFeed News it was at an "early stage" of discussions around the potential to introduce a "a similar scheme" to Costa's.

The company did not respond to specific questions over whether it would introduce new cups that are recyclable, but its commercial director, Matt Spencer, told BuzzFeed News it would "continue to explore options to increase the number of cups which are recycled".

Starbucks said it was currently working with "suppliers to obtain production scale samples" of recyclable cups to "test the products against our safety and quality standards".

A spokesperson said it had offered 25p off drinks as an incentive for customers using their own reusable cup and that in January 2017 it also introduced a recycling bin trial in store and for business customers. The cups would be taken to "paper pulping facilities" to be reformed into paper or plastic based items, the spokesperson said.

Contact Sara Spary at sara.spary@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Promoted