Disposable coffee cups have recently been in the news again. This time it’s because of a new effort to try and increase coffee cup recycling – The Cup Fund – a £1 million funding scheme to kick start some ideas about how to boost paper cup recycling in different areas. The fund launched by the environmental charity Hubbub and the global coffee shop chain Starbucks is designed to support organisations (such as local authorities, business improvement districts, or even shopping centres) to get a range of recycling programmes off the ground – at least 10 with grants of between £50,000 – £100,000 available. According to the Cup Fund website these funds could be used towards: recycling infrastructure, collecting costs, communications materials and marketing support, and staff time to create, deliver and evaluate the campaign.
Since the issue about the number of disposable coffee cups was made visible to the wider public a couple of years ago, great efforts have been made to increase recycling facilities, collection points and to reduce the number of disposable coffee cups used in the first place. The Paper Cup Recovery & Recycling Group have already reported how the UK’s capacity for recycling disposable coffee cups has increased from 1:400 to 1:25 in two years with expectations for this to increase to 1:12 by the end of 2019. However, there’s still much more work to be done, and hopefully this scheme might kick start some more activity. One thing I think this scheme demonstrates well is the capacity for different organisations with an interest in this issue to work together, not only the global coffee shop chains and charities, but paper cup recyclers (who have endorsed the programme), and professional organisations such as the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory committee (who have representatives on the panel that will be judging the submissions for the Cup Fund).
The closing date for applications is Friday 24th May with announcements of the successful applications on Tuesday 9th July.
I am currently in the fieldwork phase for a research project on coffee shops and the circular economy, with the issue of disposable coffee cups being a key component. From a research perspective, this fund is well timed, and I look forward to seeing what innovative suggestions can be devised.