Coffee cups - The Square Mile Challenge

By Rebecca Dove, Hubbub (A LARAC Partner) / 3 April 17

Coffee. It's the fuel of the nation. We throw away 7 million coffee cups a day and less than 1% get recycled.

Launching in April, the #SquareMileChallenge in the City of London aims to collect half a million coffee cups in its first month, and 5 million throughout 2017, so they can be recycled into new materials and products, some of which will donated back to the local community. The 7 million coffee cups are thrown away each day in the UK alonecampaign is part of a record collaboration between all of the major coffee cup retailers, 45 businesses and the City of London together creating 100 places where you can recycle your coffee cup, of any kind. Hubbub is leading on the campaign in partnership with the recycling provider, Simply Cups.

Why is this important

The UK throws away a whopping 2.5 billion coffee cups a year. Less than 1% of these cups are recycled, even if they have a green recycling sign and you put them in the recycling bin. The tricky issue is the mix of the plastic film on the inside of the cups which need special treatment to separate and recycle, plus the dregs of coffee which contaminate the recycling.

Hubbub ran an initial recycling pilot in Manchester last year which successfully collected 30,000 coffee cups from members of the public. The Square Mile Challenge seeks to build on our learning and to scale it significantly, bringing together an unprecedented coalition of organisations to launch the UK’s biggest push to date to tackle the issue of disposable coffee cup recycling.

Throughout the month of April there will be activities taking place across the Square Mile. We’ve worked to install more than 100 recycling points in the City, including bright yellow coffee cup-shaped bins on the streets, collections in Liverpool Street station during rush hour, and the yellow coffee cup icon in the window of coffee shops where you can recycle any cup, irrespective of the brand. The retailers taking part are: Caffè Nero, Costa, Marks & Spencer, McDonalds, Nespresso, Pret a Manger and Starbucks.

We are carrying out independent monitoring and evaluation of the campaign, to better understand the public’s attitudes and behaviours towards coffee cup recycling. We look forward to openly sharing our results and identifying further opportunities to scale our approaches across the UK.

For more details about the campaign, please see our website , follow the #SquareMileChallenge hashtag, or contact



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