UK-based coffee chain Costa Coffee has pledged to recycle as many paper cups as it puts on the market by 2020 – about 500 million cups annually. Some of these will be Costa’s own cups but its scheme will cover used cups from any source, in order to reach its desired recycling volume. Britain has the capacity to recycle all its used paper cups but waste management companies say it is not economically viable to take the used cups to the specialist recycling facilities.
To get around this, Costa Coffee has decided to pay waste management companies a subsidy of £70 per tonne of used cups delivered into recycling. In other words, Costa is assuming extended producer responsibility for the packaging it puts on the UK market. In Britain, “producers” along the chain contribute to the system of so-called Packaging Recovery Notes which is intended to cover the cost of collection and recycling of used packaging. The action by Costa shows that the current set up is still not adequately resourced or focused to ensure that used food & beverage service packaging is properly collected, sorted and recycled.
This initiative demonstrates that used paper cups are fully recyclable. It also shows that leading producers in the UK are starting to push for more and better recycling. In other parts of Europe, manufacturers and users of food & beverage service packaging are already contributing significant sums to existing producer responsibility schemes for used packaging. Typically, these contributions are not being converted into collection and recycling of used service packaging, all of which is recyclable. That, too, can and surely will change.