22nd August 2016 single use plastic coffee cups

Hugh’s war on waste – lifting the lid off the landfilled coffee cups scandal

Writer and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s war on waste campaign recently investigated packaging waste. His most recent programme cast a critical eye on excess packaging used buy online shops such as Amazon and the recyclability of coffee cups from UK based coffee shops Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero.

Here at ECO Arcade we do our best to minimise the packaging, recognising the trade-off between getting a product to a customer intact but without using excess packaging. Where possible we resuse materials so your item may be delivered in unbranded packaging but rest assured we have done our best to ensure that waste is kept to a minimum. The same can’t be said for Amazon who have been exposed by BBC viewers sending posters out in large cardboard boxes and other small items that are dwarfed by their packaging and filler materials.

Disposable coffee cups aren’t recyclable

For us the most surprising part of the programme was the issue with disposable coffee cups.

In the UK we have become a nation of coffee addicts, with a huge growth in corporate High Street coffee shops such as Costa coffee, Starbuck and Caffe Nero. For some, coffee drinking is a leisurely activity, drinking in using the resusable ceramic coffee cups (the best way in our opinion). For many, coffee drinking is done on the go using disposable cups. This means that every day in the UK we get through seven million disposable cups, which adds up to 2.5 billion per year.

Most people assume that the cups are recyclable and this is a guilt free luxury in their busy working day. However in practice, because they are made from a paper and polyethylene composite (yum I hear you say), facilities do not exist in the vast majority of local authorities and the vast majority of disposable cups are sent straight to landfill. That’s 2.5 billion cups a year. The paper sleeve that protects your fingers from getting burned is recyclable and that is probably why most people assume the cup is recyclable too.Coffee shop reusable cups

What’s more, the cups are not even made from recycled material in the first place – the way they are designed means one thin seam of card inside the cup comes into contact with the hot drink, so they have to be made from virgin paper pulp.

The coffee giants like to portray a touchy feely, eco-conscious image that chimes with most of their clientele.

On the Costa website, for example, under the misleading headline “great taste without the waste”, the company describe its cups as “eco-friendly”.

Starbucks, meanwhile, is vague. “We’re working on a solution to the challenges of paper cup waste,” it says, before adding reassuringly that “paper cups make up a small proportion of the waste produced in our stores”.

There are alternatives starting to emerge such as Frugal Pac – but people need to start pressuring their favourite coffee shops to take responsibility and change the way they provide take out coffee.

If you want to ditch those single use coffee cup see our insulated travel mug here: Insulated travel mug

Further reading

Episode 3: The Battle Continues

Viewpoint: The waste mountain of coffee cups

Hugh’s War on Waste: The Battle Continues review – taking the lid off the coffee cup scandal

Caffeine hit: what happens to Britain’s 3bn empty coffee cups??


Hugh’s war on waste

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