- Starbucks and environmental charity Hubbub have launched a $1.3 million fund to expand and improve paper cup recycling programs across the U.K., as reported by the Guardian and other publications.
- The so-called "Cup Fund" will offer successful applicants — local authorities, recycling companies and social enterprises — grants of $65,500 to $131,000 with an eventual goal of supporting at least 10 large-scale recycling initiatives across the U.K.
- "The launch of the Cup Fund means we will be able to collect cups in significant volumes in areas where there may not have been any drop-off points before. We're looking for ambitious, large-scale projects that will transform cup recycling in high-footfall areas," said, Trewin Restorick, chief executive of Hubbub, in a press release.
The Cup Fund, which will be financed by the 5-pence disposable cup surcharge implemented in U.K. stores last July, marks Starbucks' latest effort to tackle the notoriously difficult recycling challenge posed by single-use paper cups. While generally assumed to be more sustainable than their plastic counterparts, the moisture-resistant polyethylene liner present in single-use coffee cups can render them unrecyclable in some facilities.
As a result, cups collected with other mixed recycling are overwhelmingly landfilled or incinerated. According to a report conducted last year by the U.K. Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee, fewer than 1 in 400 disposable cups are recycled in the U.K. The Cup Fund initiative aims to address this gap by increasing the number of drop-off points dedicated exclusively to paper cup collection. It also seeks to expand consumer awareness of proper cup recycling.
"For us it’s about three things when it comes to cups: getting more customers to bring in a reusable cup when they visit us, recycling those that are used and also looking at alternative materials to plastic that future cups could be made from that we’ll be trialling in London next year," said Jaz Rabadia, U.K. senior manager of energy and sustainability at Starbucks, in a statement.
Whatever their ultimate impact, the success of these projects in shifting consumer behavior likely won't be apparent in the short term — as of October 2018, Starbucks's 5-pence "latte levy" had led just 5.8% of U.K. customers to opt for reusable cups, compared with 2.2% previously, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The coffee cup waste issue has attracted comparatively less cultural attention in the U.S., but multiple efforts are also underway to boost recycling. Paper mills and processors such as WestRock and Sustana have been working with Starbucks to test recycling options, and a small but growing number of cities have been adding cups to curbside programs. A variety of major brands have also teamed with Closed Loop Partners for a "NextGen Cup Challenge" to rethink design for recycling.
Applications for available grants will be open through May 24. The winners, which will be announced in July, will be selected by an independent panel of stakeholders — including the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.