Single use drinks cups are one of the items most commonly used when people are out and about, yet they are woefully under-provided for by on-the-go recycling facilities, resulting in a missed opportunity to reduce landfill.
This lack of suitable recycling facilities for single use disposable drinks cups was the driving force behind the development of one of Amberol’s newest litter bin products launched late last year – the Café Bin.
First trialled at the start of 2019 at St Marks Shopping Centre in Lincoln, the Café Bin was the result of a collaboration between the centre staff and the design team at Amberol. Although St Marks already had general recycling facilities throughout the centre, they wanted to address the issue of recycling disposable cups which requires a slightly different approach.
The multi-stream Café Bin has three separate compartments: one for lids, one for liquids and one for the cup itself. Although it is a more complex process to recycle disposable cups due to the plastic lining which prevents liquid leaking out, it is possible. The cups have to be collected separately from other paper products and taken to dedicated cup recycling sites so the different layers can be divided.
“The lack of accessible recycling points in places where there is a high footfall combined with takeaway food outlets such as transport hubs and shopping centres is a problem that needs addressing,” comments Amberol’s MD, Patience Atkinson-Gregory. “There is also a lack of clarity around the whole issue of recycling disposable cups – many people just aren’t sure whether and when they can be recycled. That’s one of the reasons why we developed the Café Bin which has proven popular at St Marks. We are hoping to roll the design out to other places that would benefit from better on-the-go recycling facilities.”
One of the challenges with recycling single use cups has been a lack of companies that are able to recycle them. However, capacity has significantly increased over the last couple of years and it is estimated that there is now enough capacity in the UK to recycle all the paper cups used.
Initiatives to reduce the use of disposable cups include the ‘latte levy’ of 25p charged per cup designed to encourage customers to use their own cups which was proposed by the Environmental Audit Committee in 2018. Although some food chains have adopted this practice, the government didn’t include this as policy in its Resources and Waste Strategy, deciding that individual businesses should be left to make the decision for themselves.
Alternatively, rather than charging extra for single use cups, some cafes and food outlets offer a discount to customers who bring their own reusable cups. These strategies have had some success but there are indications that many people still opt to use disposable cups and are likely to continue to do so. For example, when independent coffee chain Boston Tea Party introduced a complete ban on single use cups, sales fell by £250,000, making this option an unappealing one to retailers.
So, while disposable cups are still in regular use, the issue of providing more recycling facilities remains a priority, along with educating the public about what can be recycled and where.