Waste Not
Giant Coffee Cup Bins Offer Paper Cup Recycling in New Social Experiment

Eleven bins shaped like giant coffee cups have popped up along one of Manchester’s busiest streets, Oxford Road. They’re part of a new campaign and social experiment from environment charity Hubbub that aims to give paper cup recycling #1MoreShot.

It has been estimated that 7 million paper hot beverage cups are thrown away in the United Kingdom (UK) every day – and less than 1 percent are recycled. In Manchester alone, an average of 272,602 disposable cups are used every day. At the same time, Hubbub research shows that 81 percent of people in the north west say that seeing litter on the streets in their local area makes them feel angry and frustrated. The litter problem is also costly: Manchester City Council pays about £7.5 million every year to deal with litter, fly-tipping and street cleaning, which equates to about £14 per person.

Improving these figures is a matter of both changing consumers’ behavior and overcoming technical challenges, such as those caused by the mix of paper and plastic in the cups. Luckily, this year has seen some positive developments: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall led a successful campaign to raise awareness of the coffee cup waste issue, which prompted Starbucks, McDonald’s and Costa to launch a Paper Cup Manifesto in June, with the objective of significantly increasing paper cup recovery and recycling rates by 2020. Also in June, recycling manufacturer AShortWalk and consultancy Nextek began trials for cafeteria products created with their new resin made from paper coffee cups. Cups collected through Hubbub’s campaign will be made into plastic flower pot holders using the resin that will be distributed around the city.

“This new initiative will test an innovative new technology and discover whether the public will separate out their coffee cups if specialist bins are provided,” explained Hubbub Co-Founder Gavin Ellis.

The #1MoreShot campaign – which is Hubbub’s first in the fight against coffee cup waste – aims to collect 20,000 cups that will be recycled to create 15,000 plastic flower pot holders that will be used in community gardens around Manchester. AShortWalk is responsible for the product design, and Hubbub has partnered with Groundwork and the Manchester City Council, along with coffee retailers, to redistribute the recycled products for the benefit of the local community.

“Together with polymer experts Nextek we have spent years developing this technology, and we now hope that councils across the UK will adopt this technique as an answer to paper cup waste,” said Dan Dicker from AShortWalk. “Making new products from the collected cups drives demand and allows us all the see what actually happens to our cup once we place it in the bin.”

The bins were installed on October 12th and will remain as part of the campaign through December 2016. If the experiment is a success, a number of local authorities have expressed interest in participating in a similar program.

“The paper cup recycling bins are a very welcome development and an excellent example of collaboration from the entire paper cup supply chain working together,” Martin Kersh, the Executive Director of the Foodservice Packaging Association said on behalf of the Paper Cup Manifesto group. “By using these bins, Manchester residents will be showing they are as equally determined and committed as Manchester City Council in providing a long term solution to ensuring paper cups are sustainably recycled. The industry is wholly determined to find solutions and would urge other UK local authorities to follow Manchester’s lead and collaborate with us.”

In other coffee cup news this week, a new company called Frugalpac announced a partnership with Irish packaging firm Cup Print to produce the cups made from recycled paper that it first launched in July. The cups are unique in that they can be recycled in normal paper mills – which avoids the issues cause by mixed materials altogether. The partnership will produce the recycled paper cups for use in trials with interested customers, including Starbucks.

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