UK-based packaging and paper company DS Smith believes it may have the capacity to recycle the 2.5 billion coffee cups discarded by British consumers each year.
Following months of in-depth research, the company said it has found a solution to the coffee cup recycling challenge using its paper mill in Kent.
Peter Clayson, DS Smith general manager for recycling, said: “We have been working around the clock to solve the throw-away coffee cup challenge, as enjoying a latte has become part of British culture.
“We could recycle up to two and a half billion cups each year, but we need the recycling collection infrastructure to be far better if we are to reach the goal of recycling every last cup.”
He said there are currently two challenges to recycling high volumes of coffee cups. “Firstly, there is the plastic lining that must be removed from the cups, then we need to ensure that the cups have not been too badly soiled by food waste.
“If we can work together with local councils, coffee sellers, and the waste management sector to improve segregation of the cups and develop a comprehensive collection infrastructure, we can make a huge difference together.”
DS Smith has written to the government to call for measures to support better cup collection and provided details of its coffee cup recycling capacity to the PCRRG (Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group) of which it is a member.
The news follows an announcement earlier this month that the UK government refused to introduce a levy on takeaway coffee cups, instead choosing to rely on voluntary discounts for reusable cups.
Earlier this year, the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) put forward a £0.25 levy on the cups, with the money raised used to improve the UK’s recycling infrastructure.
The government response suggests that coffee shops should offer discounts for customers with reusable cups, instead of a levy on disposable cups. In its inquiry, the committee heard that a charge – such as that introduced on plastic bags – was the most effective way to change consumer behaviour.
EAC chair Mary Creagh MP said: “The UK’s throwaway culture is having a devastating impact on our streets, beaches and seas. Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis.”
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