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Progress on paper cups

The number of places where coffee lovers can recycle their disposable cups has rocketed in the past 12 months, according to an update published by the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG).

The PCRRG estimates that there are currently 4,017 collection and recycling points in the UK, whereas a year ago there were “very few”. The likes of Costa Coffee, Starbucks, McDonald’s and a number of outlets in London’s Square Mile have all put bins in place.

More firms, including Pret and Paul, have also started offering discounts for customers who bring reusable cups.

The PCRRG – a voluntary body comprising foodservice companies, waste contractors and packaging firms – also said that progress “is being made in reprocessing systems”. Paper cups are recyclable but the laminate layer fused to the fibre makes reprocessing “technically challenging”.

An investigation by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall last year highlighted that just 0.25% of the 2.5 billion cups used every year are recycled. PCRRG was formed following that campaign, but its progress report has no details of current recycling rates.

A number of new projects are expected in the coming 12 months, including research that will look at the possibility of separating out cups at Materials Recycling Facilities. “We know there are still challenges that we need to address in terms of the growth of the market, infrastructure restrictions and consumer behaviour change, but we are determined to impact these,” said the group’s chairman, Neil Whittall.

The PCRRG used its update to reinforce its opposition to deposit return schemes and charges. With a plastic bag tax proving so successful, there have been calls to extend the concept to single-use cups.

“The PCRRG believes that the concept of a proposed charge on paper cups cannot be compared like-for-like with the imposition of the carrier bag charge. A key reason for this is that the majority of coffee consumption out of the home is spontaneous.”