Coffee Cups: Is Cup Neutral The Answer?

Takeaway coffee cups. They are everywhere; walk along a station platform on a weekday morning and you will see nearly every commuter holding one. Go to the town centre, and shoppers will often be sipping on a coffee with one hand and holding bags in the other.

Our love of coffee and our busy lives means that the demand for single use coffee cups has reached a staggering 2.5 billion cups per year in the UK.

With fewer than 1% of these cups actually ever making it to recycling facilities, our love of on-the-go java is damaging the planet.

Well, that’s where Cup Neutral want to help! The recycling scheme, set up in coffee shops around Brighton and Worthing aims to create a network of cup collection points to make it easier for consumers to dispose of their cups responsibly, ensuring that they are recycled.

But is it enough?

Recycling can lull us into a false sense of security; that we are doing our bit to help the environment, and lead us to complacency. For example, people may feel that they are justified in buying bottled water as they make up for it by recycling.

While takeaway cups are technically recyclable, the process is very resource intensive due to the mixed material nature of the cups. Only three recycling plants in the UK have the facilities to properly process coffee cups!

Also any black coffee cup lids can’t be recycled at all (black plastic cannot be detected by the infrared scanners on recycling machines)

Many takeaway cups are made from what is called ‘virgin’ materials, meaning that trees have been cut and pulped to make the paper that is used for 10 minutes before being tossed. This is a terrible use of our limited resources.

It’s vital to remember that recycling should always be the very last option, not the first solution. We should first refuse, reduce, and reuse.

The ultimate solution to the cup problem is simple; get a reusable cup! There are so many options available and prices to suit every pocket. The discounts offered by many coffee shops to reusable cup customers can be significant enough to save you £10 a year! (based on one cup of takeaway coffee a week with 25p discount)

What is good about the Cup Neutral scheme, is to see companies taking responsibility for the waste they create, rather than taking the stance that it is always down to the customer to act.

What are your thoughts on the cup issue? Do you refuse disposables? Do you have a reusable cup?


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  • Melissa on

    Hi Debbie,

    We loved reading your blog and thoughts around the disposable cup issue, thank you for taking your time to write about the scheme. We totally agree, in the first instance a reusable cup (Keep Cup or similar) is the best solution.

    Sadly we have found that with the best will in the world, there is still a demand for a disposable paper cup and so Cup Neutral has been created to offer a closed loop recycling option for both vendors and consumers. Our aim is to raise awareness as well as make people accountable for their waste and where it ends up engaging with like-minded business in the Brighton & Hove area.

    Our cups are indeed made with virgin paper however our paperboard is sourced from sustainably managed forests here in the UK (PEFC accredited), this means that for every tree felled a new seedling is planted in its place.

    We work with a cup manufacturer based just along the coast in Hampshire and Brighton Paper Round for the waste collection element – using local supply chains means we are able to keep CO2 emissions and greenhouse gasses to a minimum.

    Whilst we appreciate we cant save the world single handedly and put an end to single use plastics (which by the way we would if we could), by giving people the means to recycle the disposable cups they sell/use, we hope that it goes someway to reducing the issue and doing our bit for the environment.

    If you would like to know more about the scheme or have any other questions please feel free to get in touch:

    Many thanks

    Mel @ Cup Neutral

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