Veolia launches disposable coffee cup recycling service

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

Further to trials supported by partners such as Costa and Starbucks, Veolia is rolling out a national disposable coffee cup recycling scheme. With 84% of takeaway hot drink consumers reported to still be using disposable cups, Veolia said its coffee cup solution "aims to collect takeaway cups as soon as the consumer has finished their drink to reduce cup contamination and increase recycling rates".

The scheme is now available to existing customers nationwide and to potential new customers as part of a packaged service, and offers different service options. These include a specialist designed in-house recycling bin, a bulk collection option and a post back service – which is available to all business types nationally.

According to Veolia, the latest YouGov research shows a "staggering" 88% of the public would use a purpose-built bin to ensure their disposable paper cups is recycled. Almost half (47%) are said to be willing to hold onto their cup for longer if they knew they would pass a purpose-built bin, and nearly a quarter (24%) would go out of their way to use one. As a result, Veolia said it is calling for more disposal locations, such as train stations, university campuses and offices, to "step-up and help solve the coffee cup conundrum with them".

For regular takeaway hot drink consumers, those that buy at least four drinks a week or more, the most popular location for cup disposal is said to be at work. Veolia reported that over half (52%) cite the office as a disposal location, with ‘on-the-go’ locations such as train stations, service stations and on trains, the second most popular (40%) and then in coffee shops third (31%).

Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president at Veolia UK & Ireland, said: “Over the last six months a lot of activities have been taking place with our customers, such as Costa and Starbucks, to overcome our biggest challenge – contamination in the cups. As a result, we’ve worked on a solution that will separate the cup from the general waste stream as soon as the customer has enjoyed their drink.

“Coffee cup recycling is now happening across the country, but I’d like to take this opportunity to further encourage a mass collaboration between designers, manufacturers, vendors and consumers as we all have a part to play in making all of our packaging more environmentally friendly and ensuring our resources are kept in the loop for longer.”

Once the consumer has ‘tipped-it, flipped-it and stacked-it’ – a process to ensure any remaining liquid is drained and the lid, sleeve and cup are separated – Veolia said it undertakes a further separation process "to guarantee all rogue items have been removed". This is reported to be key because it will help to ensure a higher quality of material that can be reprocessed into a new product.

"After the cups have been debagged, separated, checked for quality and contamination, and baled up they go on to further treatment at paper pulping facilities which recover the fibres and separate the polymer plastic lining," explained Brachlianoff, before adding: "Working with a number of outlets, the fibre could potentially be used to make a multitude of products such as egg boxes or cup holders given back out in stores or alternatively used in the manufacturing of cellulose-based insulation for homes."

Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) executive director Martin Kersh welcomed Veolia's initiative to increase the number of paper cups recycled.

"This is an excellent example of the positive action resulting from the wider industry working so closely together," said Kersh. "The Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group has acted as an effective catalyst for action and as a consequence we are witnessing a number of very positive developments which added together are making inroads.

“It was recognised that only when the whole supply chain, from product creation to end of life, works closely together can progress be made and this is clearly proving to be the case.”

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