It’s no secret that one of our most popular product ranges here at Delistore.co.uk is the disposable paper cup. We’ve been selling them since our company’s inception, and we continue to do so to our customers across the UK. I think it’s also fair to say that the humble paper cup has been vilified in the media no less in in celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “War on Waste” campaign, when he drove a bus through London covered in 10,000 coffee cups: the number the UK allegedly uses every two minutes. Single-use paper cups seem to be environmental public enemy no. 2 just behind single use plastics.
It is worth remembering that coffee cups still only make up around 0.7% of UK packaging waste. And it’s estimated that the packaging element makes up less than 5% of the total carbon footprint of a takeaway coffee in a disposable cup considering all the other factors involved from the oil used in fertiliser on the plantation, the jet fuel used to transport the coffee beans to the energy used to heat the coffee, and so on.
Are Reusable Cups the answer?
Reusable cups have surged in popularity with some coffee shops offering a discount for customers that bring their own. However, customers are not embracing this as the new reality. Reusable cups typically make less than 5 per cent of takeaway sales in the UK. Recently, independent coffee chain Boston Tea Party reported a fall of 25% (£250k) of takeaway sales since they went ahead with an outright ban on single-use cups in their stores last summer. Customers of BTP were previously offered a 25p discount on drinks if they brought their own cup, but only 2.8% of people took up the offer. BTP with 20+ outlets and approx. £20m turnover may be able to suffer losses from taking this stand but most independent coffee shops would not.
The inconvenient truth is that it isn’t easy for people on the run to remember their cup, carry it around and wash it out between uses. Apart from the return on investment on the initial buying cost, It can also take between 20 and 100 uses for a reusable cup to offset its higher greenhouse gas emissions compared to a disposable, due to the greater amount of energy and material required to make a durable product and the hot water needed to wash them.
What about Compostable Cups?
Another alternative to traditional paper cups is compostable alternatives. Delistore.co.uk also offer a full range of these compostable disposable coffee cups. In fact, our latest compostable cup is completely paper-free. The Treefree Cup is made from bagasse, sugar-cane fibres left over from the sugar extraction process. These cups are truly beneficial when they end up, and are processed, in the correct waste facility. Compostable cups need dedicated collection streams free from non-compostable materials and are best suited to closed environments such as canteens, stadiums, tourist attractions, etc. We also offer a full range of coffee cup lids that are compostable, made from CPLA, a biodegradable bioplastic made from corn starch.
Can paper cups be recycled?
The fact is that paper cups also represent an eco-friendly product in themselves as they are 100% recyclable and there are facilities in the UK that do so. In fact, the capacity exists now to recycle all the papers cups used in the UK. What is needed is further collaboration between consumers, retailers, waste management companies and local councils to get more paper cups to these recycling plants. The situation seems to be getting better. Coffee cup recycling rates have increased from an estimated 1:400 to 1:25 in just two years and may increase to 1:12 in 2019, according to a Report published by the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG).
There are now thousands of paper cup recycling points in the UK for consumers to return cups via bring banks and in-store take back schemes. Over 115 local authorities now collect paper cups with paper cartons, with more coming on stream all the time. More than 20 waste collectors are now actively participating in a national recycling scheme to increase recycling of paper cups and transport them to their reprocessing end markets. Five re-processors are also accepting paper cups including ACE UK, DS Smith, James Cropper and Veolia. And finally, at least nine councils have started to include paper cups in kerbside collection schemes for householders.