A new approach to Coffee Cup Recycling

Since late October the #1MoreShot campaign has been collecting disposable coffee cups from the people of Manchester with 13 giant coffee cup-shaped bins. The aim is to show that if given the facilities, the public will recycle their cups, which can then be turned into useful products that benefit the local community.

Hot drink cup recycling has been a hot topic this year; from the Daily Mail, The Guardian, the BBC and in particular Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, it’s an issue the media has had it in their sights. The numbers are staggering – we get through 7 million cups a day in the UK and only 1 in 400 are recycled, even when put in the recycling bin.

The problem lies is the difficulty of separating the plastic coating that lines the paper cup. With the process that Hubbub is trialling, the cups are shredded then turned into pellets consisting of 40% used cups and 60% post-consumer polypropylene to make what look and feel like plastic products. In this case the plastic lining is actually an asset as the cup will be mixed with plastic anyway.

Initially we had half the bins on one test street, Oxford Road, and the rest in indoor managed locations such as Manchester Metropolitan University and the central Library café. Over time it became apparent that, while effective at raising the profile of the campaign, the on-street bins are prone to contamination and don’t collect as many cups as those in more managed, controlled spaces. Therefore, we have now moved all of the bins off the streets and into indoor locations such as Manchester Royal Infirmary. The other lesson is that the bins work better when placed next to other recycling bins, so the user can choose from a selection of bins.

By the end of January, we will have recycled more than 20,000 coffee cups which will be recycled into 13,000 garden products such as flower pot holders which will be donated to the local charity Groundwork for use in local community gardens. Local residents will be able to directly see how their recycling efforts are benefitting the community.

Crucial in making this campaign a success has been collaboration from different companies and organisations. It has involved a range of partners, namely Hubbub, Caffé Nero, Costa, Greggs, KFC, McDonald’s, Nestle, Pret A Manger, Waitrose, Groundwork MSSTT and Manchester City Council.

To continue the collections in Manchester, collaboration will again be crucial. We are already in discussion with the council, major employers and transport hubs about how we can make these bins a permanent fixture in Manchester, creating a template for other cities to follow. We’ll be hosting an event in Manchester in the new year to explore how this will work, for more information on this event please email gavin@hubbub.org.uk