Coffee cup recycling bins to be introduced to prevent billions ending up in landfill

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Coffee cups will be recycled at the Selecta UK sites across the south east.
Coffee cups will be recycled at the Selecta UK sites across the south east. Credit:  SIMON DAWSON/REUTERS

Coffee cup recycling points are to be introduced at train stations, schools and hospitals across the south of England to prevent billions ending up in a landfill.

After an initial trial, the scheme is being rolled out across 17 sites in the south east, targeting 10,000 customers and recycling as many as 200,000 coffee cups every year. 

Currently, 2.5 billion cups are thrown away in the UK every year, with less than one per cent recycled, according to a 2018 Environmental Audit Committee report.

A new partnership between Selecta UK, a self-serve coffee and convenience food retailer, and Veolia, an environmental solutions company, will see recycling boxes installed in workplaces and near on-the-go machines.

Veolia will collect the boxes and take the cups to their facility in Essex, where they are broken down into pulp.

The pulp is then turned into new products, such as internal and outer packaging for perfumes and colognes, as well as shopping bags and luxury notepads. 

Recycling coffee cups is not a simple process due to separation of “rogue items” before they can be pulped, Richard Kirkman, chief technology and innovation officer for Veolia explained.

"This scheme will ensure coffee cups are treated in a special process which retains the high value fibres and puts them back into high quality paper products,” he said. 

“The existing recycling infrastructure is not designed for coffee cups as they don't arise in the home in sufficient quantities."

Since 2017, Veolia has diverted more than 60 million cups from landfill sites.