Behind the Beans

The coffee cup conundrum

By Emily Braybrooke

As you drain your paper looking coffee cup of it’s contents, you probably don’t think too much about what will happen to it.

If there is a recycling bin nearby, and you care about the environment, I’m sure you throw it in and don’t give it a second thought, believing that it will be recycled and that you’ve done your bit.recycle

Well now it seems that may not be the case. You see, while the outside of your coffee cup is harmless paper/cardboard, it is the inside that poses a problem.

When you think about it, logically the inside of your coffee cup surely can’t be paper as it would just go soggy. It is in fact made of a plastic film that often cannot be recycled along with the rest of the cup, meaning that each year, only 1% of the UK’s  2.5 billion paper coffee cups used are recycled.

And then there is the fact that some people don’t even put their cups into recycling bins at all.

So what is being done about it?

London has recently launched a new scheme called ‘The Square Mile Challenge‘ to ensure that more coffee cups are being recycled in the correct way.

Seven yellow, coffee cup shaped bins are being placed around the city and participating shops are displaying yellow stickers in their windows.

CoffeeCupBin
Photo Credit: Hubbub Foundation. http://www.hubbub.org.uk

Cups are also being collected at Liverpool Street and Cannon Street stations and over 100 retailers and 30 organisations are offering recycling facilities.

The cups from these bins will go through one of two special processes to ensure the cups can be recycled effectively.

The first includes shredding the whole cup to make a resin which will then be mixed with recycled plastic to create a new mouldable plastic material.

The second method separates the plastic lining and paper of the cup, so the plastic can be removed and fibres can be recovered to make products like cardboard containers.

To find out more about The Square Mile Challenge and other environmental projects check out the website for environmental charity, Hubbub.

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