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Costa Coffee are on a mission to recycle take away coffee cups

Costa Coffee are on a mission to recycle take away coffee cups
by Emma Mundy at 15:24 in Environmental, Circular Economy, Packaging

At RWM this year we heard from Costa Coffee on how they are making sure that plastic lined take away coffee cups are being recycled.

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This is big news right now, consumers are more aware than ever of the environmental impacts of plastic and are turning against items such as single use take away cups. The Environment Audit Committee proposed a latte levy and many coffee retailers have implemented charges for take out cups or discounts if you bring your own reusable cup.

During RWM Costa announced exactly what they are doing to improve the situation. First of all, they acknowledge that reusable cups are the best course of action and customers are rewarded for bringing in their reusable cup. Costa are not making a move towards compostable cups because they want to build an infrastructure for recycling the plastic lined cups.

There are currently 400 bring back points in the UK where coffee cups can be collected along with Tetra Pak and Costa are currently working with DS Smith and Sheffield University on how to recycle a plastic lined coffee cup in a standard mill.

Of course, the challenge is the separate recovery of the coffee cups. Only a couple of years ago the media was telling consumers that these cups could not be recycled. Many consumers are probably unaware that separate collection now exists for them. Separate collection needs to be made easy for consumers, so the cups do actually get collected and not just end up in landfill or contaminating recycling.

Costa have recycled 6.5 million cups through the first half of this year. They are aware that not enough cups are being recycled but there is value in coffee cup recycling. Costa can make around £50-70 per tonne of recycled cups. They currently have 21 waste contractors collecting coffee cups on their behalf.

They've developed a voluntary PRN system, whereby when they are recycled the reprocessor can send an evidence note to Valpak which can then be used to offset packaging waste obligations. This is an industry voluntary scheme which other retailers of take out cups can take part in. Costa want to build an infrastructure for recycling take out coffee cups in order to lessen their impact on the environment. As a result of this initiative paper cups are now one of the highest value materials on the market, this makes them commercially attractive and waste contractors are now more likely to offer separate collections of the cups as part of their recycling contracts with their customers.

Costa has said they will recycle any cup regardless of its brand, which makes sense if they can offset their packaging obligation with them. They are working with major organisations and councils across the UK to put the infrastructure in place to reach these ambitious but achievable targets.

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