We've missed the point about coffee cup recycling

Written by: Terry Fox | Published:
Terry Fox, CEO of Cup Print

The point about the coffee cups debate is that everyone is missing the point.

Rather than trying to change people’s habits, making changes that will make marginal differences, imposing taxes, or investing in expensive infrastructure and new systems, just change the cup.

Because of the media coverage people don’t realise that the technology exists now to convert all paper cups to be recyclable in the regular paper and card waste stream. This technology is available in commercial volumes and is scalable to supply the largest of global coffee brands.

Currently arguments are all based on the end of life issues for the used cup, while we argue we should focus on the cup itself - changing the cup is much easier than changing the system. But for this to happen effectively, we need the support of waste processors to commit to collect and recycle the used cups.

Currently the public is motivated by TV programmes and campaigns to make positive change and this a good thing but we need to take care that actions are not taken for the wrong reasons - such as such as cities are that declaring themselves to go plastic free. It just isn’t possible in today’s society to live like we do without plastic or packaging.

Plastic has played a vital role in developing our society and giving consumers convenient choices - making these types of declarations gets headlines but if implemented will cause serious problems in terms of food supply and day to day living, leading to food shortages, escalating prices and a big increase in food waste.

Today’s urban society is time-starved and convenience driven and needs take away food and food on the go to fuel the way we live - and this just isn’t possible without packaging. In all the media fuss we seem to have lost focus on the positive reasons for using for food packaging, including paper cups.

The right kinds of packaging, including plastic, are recyclable and facilities and systems exist to ensure this happens.Yes we need to improve collections and recycling rates but UK kerbside collection is amongst the best in the world - we should build on this rather then undermine it with expensive but media popular schemes such as DRS.

Doing nothing is not an option

We’re not going to change the way society works so we should focus on fixing the packaging element rather than society - we all know that doing nothing is not an option.

At Cup Print we have actively invested in sustainable technologies since 2010. As a result we have scoured the world for new sustainable cup options are proud to have three options currently in our portfolio including compostable and recyclable cups and will be adding to this range as new workable technologies come on board.

Five years ago our business was 90% standard paper cups, 10% sustainable. Yes we still manufacture standard paper cups but now our model is 60% standard cups and 40% recyclable/compostable cups - and in the near future we believe that all cups should be a sustainable technology and standard cups will be a thing of the past.

To achieve this level of change requires the supply chain to work together and solutions that will work across the industry - we don’t see that Cup Print will be the only sustainable cup supplier; we believe that everyone should be supplying sustainable cups in order to effect change as quickly as possible. We’re just proud that Cup Print is at the vanguard of this movement.

Terry Fox is CEO of Cup Print, supplier of sustainable paper cup solutions in Ireland, the UK and Europe

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