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Reasons why 99.75% of take away coffee cups are not recycled

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The public are becoming more knowledgeable about the fact that it isn’t as easy to recycle take away coffee cups as they may have thought. The main cause of difficulty is said to be the mixture of paper and plastic within the inner lining which makes them both heat and leak proof. Currently there are only a small number of plants in the UK which are able to process the used disposable cups which is why such a high percentage of them don’t actually get recycled.

In 2011 an estimate was made that 2.5 billion take away coffee cups were thrown away each year and that figure is likely to be much higher now. The companies, Costa and Starbucks are both one of the biggest sellers of coffee in the UK. Both companies claim they have started recycling coffee cups but that is only possible if their customers dispose of their take away cups in store. These two companies as well as Café Nero provide incentives for customers to bring their own reusable mug rather than a disposable one. Cups that are left on the kerb, in a household recycling or in a bin on a high street or railway station will more than likely end up in a landfill.  The specialist plants that do have the technology to recycle coffee cups say that they already have the capacity to recycle the cups we throw away however it’s actually the infrastructure to transport them which is absent.

Vegware is a retail company that provides compostable cups that do not contain any plastic so they biodegrade. The company sells its cups to school, hospitals, office canteens and independent coffee shops and its sales have increased by more than a third in two years. Although this solution is very good for the environment, this product also can make things worse if the cups aren’t put in the right bin as it can contaminate plastic recycling and costs the council money in sorting it. The amount of waste that is rejected by the council for recycling has been rising. The waste that is rejected ends up in landfills or gets burned.

The public need to become more aware of how they dispose of their compostable and take away coffee cups before the situation worsens and we can no longer use these materials.

Source: BBC News, 17 April 2018

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