In the UK it is estimated that we drink around 70 million cups of coffee per day and 2/3 of us tend to buy from coffee shops rather than make our own at home. It is estimated that if you placed all the paper cup used in the UK in one year end-to-end, they would go around the world 5 and ½ times! While this trend is good for our highstreets, in 2012 the estimated turnover for coffee shops was £5.8 billion, there is a growing environmental issue. Less than 1% of paper cups are being recycled, with most ending up in landfill.

 

One of the main issues is with the composition of the cups themselves. As they are made from a combination of paper and plastic, they have to undergo special treatment in order to separate the paper for recycling. At the moment there are only 2 facilities in the UK that can do this process, and while they are hoping to expand in the next few years, they are currently struggling to meet the demand.

 

This composition also makes the cups difficult to sort when recycling. Due to the plastic liner they cannot be placed in paper recycling and they aren’t always filtered correctly when mixed recycling is sorted. There is also an issue with contamination, as items often need to be clean and dry before they are recycled. This sometimes means that even if the cups are put in the correct recycling bin, they still end up in landfill.

 

There have been calls from campaigners for a tax on disposable cups, similar to the one introduced on plastic bags in October, as a way of encouraging the use of reusable cups. However the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a statement that there are currently no plans for a tax.

 

One of the easiest ways to tackle this issue is to use a reusable cup when ordering take-away coffee. Starbucks has even introduced a 25p discount on drinks if you bring your own cup (and it doesn’t have to be Starbucks branded!). There are many types of reusable cups available to buy in high street and online stores, which many people claim even help improve the flavour of the coffee!

 

Sources:

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35840916

British Coffee Association: http://www.britishcoffeeassociation.org/about_coffee/coffee_facts/

Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/15/coffee-cup-britons-3-billion-so-few-recylced

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/16/takeaway-coffee-cups-recycle-environment-waste

Simply Cups: http://www.simplycups.co.uk/

Starbucks: http://www.starbucks.co.uk/customer-service/faqs/coffeehouse

Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/drinks/disposable-coffee-cups-tax-whats-the-solution-to-all-this-waste/

The term ‘circular economy’ has become popular in recent years in discussions about recycling and waste reduction, but what does it actually mean? The charity WRAP defines a circular economy as a system “where we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use and regenerate products at the end of the resources life”. In more simple terms this means using items for as long as possible and recycling or reusing them, rather than just throwing them away.

 

One easy way to contribute to a circular economy is to donate and buy clothes from charity shops. This keeps clothes out of landfill, where approximately 350,000 tonnes are sent every year, as well as helping charitable causes.

 

Recycling everyday items also help to contribute to a circular economy, especially in the case of tin cans. Recycling aluminium can happen time and time again without any loss of quality. As a bonus, creating a can from recycled materials only uses 5% of the energy needed to create one from scratch.

 

There are many other ways to help develop a circular economy, from simple ways like using scrap paper, to the more entrepreneurial like using coffee grounds to heat your home (more details here http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/14/the-innovators-how-your-coffee-can-light-up-your-barbecue-and-boiler).

 

Please leave a comment or Tweet us @ACEnvironment with more ideas about contributing to a circular economy.

 

Sources:

WRAP: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/wrap-and-circular-economy

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/feb/11/retailers-campaign-old-clothes-waste

Recycle Now: https://www.recyclenow.com/facts-figures/how-it-recycled/cans

The UK government is aiming to have all schools classed as ‘sustainable schools’ by 2020, meaning that through lessons and day-to-day school life pupils are engaged with the environment and sustainability. Individual schools are responsible for the ways in which they achieve this, but help from local councils or other organisations is sometimes available.

 

Several London councils, including Croydon, Richmond and Sutton, are encouraging schools to join the Eco-Schools programme, which is an international award programme that helps schools embed sustainability into many aspects of school life. They provide resources and advice on how a school can become more sustainable and recognise improvements through a series of awards. Many councils also offer free recycling collection, helping schools to increase their recycling rates and engage pupils with recycling.

 

Beyond the economic and environmental benefits of becoming more sustainable, studies conducted by Ofsted have even shown a link between schools promoting sustainability and pupils getting better marks and becoming more engaged across many lessons.

 

The UK government has written a list of tips to make schools more sustainable, which is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/187037/DFE-32056-2012.pdf

 

Sources:

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2013/jun/17/energy-efficiency-sustainability

Eco-Schools: http://www.eco-schools.org.uk/aboutecoschools

Carbon Trust: https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/guides/sector-based-advice/schools/