man holding takeaway coffee cup

How to avoid single-use coffee cups

Single-use coffee cups have featured in the news a lot over the past few years, primarily due to the fact that they are difficult to recycle and the UK gets through 2.5 billion of them per year.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall brought ‘disposable’ cups to the public eye on his War on Waste programme back in March 2016, and there’s been much public discussion ever since.

Coffee fans the country over have been caught up in the discussion over the takeaway cups used to house their beloved flat white or frothy cappuccino.

Why can’t paper cups be recycled?

people drinking from single-use coffee cups

Paper is, of course, easily recyclable by itself, but the problem occurs when it is lined with plastic.

It is difficult to separate the two parts (requiring specialist equipment which isn’t yet nationwide), and so these cups often have to be placed in the general waste bin by consumers.

Sam Goodall, our Operations Director, said on the topic:

“Single-use cups are a big problem. People drinking coffee on the go tend to throw them away in general waste bins, so they end up going to landfill or to incineration plants.”

So, the ideal situation is to reduce the number of paper cups being used across the country.

How is that achieved? By changes in consumer habits, primarily.

Read on to learn more about the changes you can make.

Make a coffee before you leave the house

This is a really simple solution, and one the coffee shops won’t be too keen on!

Most of us have the means to make a decent coffee at home, so why not get up 10 minutes earlier in a morning and enjoy your caffeine fix at home instead?

If your penchant is for fancy coffees, you could consider investing in a milk frother and some flavoured syrups to get the coffee shop effect at home.

Grabbing a coffee at home is far cheaper and creates much less waste.

However, do bear in mind that if you have a coffee machine that uses pods, these are currently not recyclable at home.

Some are not recyclable at all, while others need to be sent to TerraCycle for recycling, as local councils don’t recycle them.

Invest in a reusable cup

reusable coffee cup

If you cannot do without your coffee shop coffee (we understand — it’s delicious!) then you can avoid using a single-use cup by providing your own reusable one.

Many coffee shops now run excellent incentive schemes such as significant discounts for those who bring their own reusable cup in (or buy one in-store).

Frequent coffee shops that use compostable cups

If you rarely buy a takeout coffee and can’t justify the purchase of a reusable cup, make sure you get your occasional drink from a coffee shop that serves its takeout drinks in compostable cups.

These, as the name suggests, can be composted after use.

Recycle your paper cup!

If you live in the Leeds area and forget your reusable cup when you visit the coffee shop, fear not — the chances are, the shop will have a recycling scheme set up (through Forge Recycling!)

We have paired up with James Cropper in Kendal to offer a cup recycling/upcycling service to as many people and businesses in Leeds and beyond as possible.

If you’re out and about in Leeds, look out for our cup-specific recycling points — installed as part of the Leeds By Example on-the-go campaign.

Based in Yorkshire and interested in setting up a cup recycling service for your coffee shop, cafe or restaurant? Get in touch today!

Published by

Lucy Ravenhall

Lucy is a long-standing editor of the Forge Recycling blog and loves writing about her environmental passions.

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