Operators face tough choice over plastic-free cups in run-up to Budget

Operators face tough choice over plastic-free cups in run-up to Budget

Uncertainty over the Government’s plans for new plastic taxes and bans, set to be announced in the autumn Budget, is forcing some operators to put on hold or rethink their plans for introducing new cups.

A recent statement from the Treasury set out the options Government was considering, following a consultation period, to reduce single-use plastic, especially coffee cups, stirrers and straws.

However, while the Government makes up its mind, café operators looking to invest in alternatives to disposable cups have told Coffee Business World they fear choosing recyclable or compostable/biodegradable over reusable at this stage may prove later to be a costly mistake, should Government come out in support of one scheme over another.

Big names on the High Street, Costa, Starbucks, McDonald's and Caffe Nero have signed up to trialling Veolia’s recycling scheme, which offers in-store collection and sorting solutions prior to recycling.

Veolia has committed to collecting 120m coffee cups for recycling in 2019. And for Costa, it has promised to recycle “as many cups as Costa sells by 2020”. Veolia also has a pilot running with Westminster City Council and Heart of London Business Alliance, to make recycling cups more convenient for "busy people on the move".

One operator currently looking into cup options said: “With a three-month lead-time and the costs involved, it’s a daunting decision to have to make at this stage, before we understand what the Government plans to do.”

Executive director of the Foodservice Packaging Association Martin Kersh advised independent coffee shop operators to gain a full understanding of what waste management schemes were running in their local areas before opting for any particular scheme.

“If the waste management company and Local Authority say they are committed to composting, for example, and will collect cups to be properly dealt with, that’s fantastic. However, if you’re dealing with several authorities all doing different things and there’s no clear commitment, then it’s worth waiting until the situation becomes clearer.” Or, he added, finding a waste management firm to partner, as in the case of the bigger companies.

He continued: “What the Government is trying to do is bring about social and behavioural change through taxation…. The hospitality sector, I believe, can play a big part in this by getting the right messages across to consumers and encouraging them not to litter.”

The FPA is campaigning for any taxes raised on plastics in the future to be invested into waste management and recycling. Kersh explained that with recycling firms in Britain saying they have capacity, the problem was down to funding and a lack of uniformity across the country, with Local Authorities’ waste management schemes differing from area-to-area.

Martin Kersh’s full response to the Treasury’s announcement is available here.

  • Zero Waste Week, the general awareness campaign to reduce landfill, begins on September 3 for five days.

Who’s doing what – a snapshot

  • Boston Tea Party hit the headlines this year (CBW, May 09 & CBW, July 03) when it announced it was removing disposable cups in favour of reusable. While sales have dropped, the company remains committed and is holding workshops in Bristol with other businesses to help plan their plastic-free journey.
  • Contract foodservice giant the Compass Group said reducing paper cup waste and increasing recycling rates was a national challenge, and one that it took very seriously. "We have been working closely with our industry partners for some time, looking at how we can help tackle this issue. This is a complicated area and we’re now assessing the information from the Treasury’s announcement in detail and awaiting further government announcements."
  • Recycling firm Veolia has a target to collect and recycle 120m coffee cups in 2019, working with in-store with Costa, Starbucks, McDonald's and Caffe Nero.
  • Costa is aiming to recycle as many disposable cups as it sells by 2020.
  • Costa Express, which operates 8,300 vending machines selling 100m cups a year, revealed at European Coffee Expo Conference in May that it’s looking to develop a smart cup (CBW, May 23) in the near future to provide customers with easy access to loyalty points and offers, as well as encouraging re-useable cup habits.
  • easyCoffee offers several solutions at different price points, a light weight 'life-time' cup at £1.95 is currently being trialled, a re-usable thermal cup sells for £4.95 and includes two free coffees, and a new fully resuable/recyclable cup for 30p is set to be launched.
  • Esquires Coffee has opted for compostable (CBW, June 12) across its 53 sites from September, and has announced it will absorb the extra 30% cost, not pass it onto its customers, as part of its ‘ethical approach to business’.
  • Paddy & Scott’s banned all single use plastics in 2016 and uses fully compostable coffee cups and lids made from corn starch.
  • Waitrose and the John Lewis Partnership are currently switching to reusable-only in a programme being rolled-out across all its in-store cafes and ‘free’ self-serve coffee points in Waitrose (CBW, April 9).
  • Aramark, the global leader in food and facilities management, has just committed to "significantly reducing" its single-use disposable plastics, including cups, straws and stirrers by 2022.  

The rCUP (main picture) is one of the reusable cups being promoted and sold by the retailer.

The rCUP, the brainchild of former Dyson designer Dan Dicker, managing director of ashortwalk, is the first reusable cup to be made from recycled coffee cups with a RRP of £12.

“Consumers and retailers are increasingly aware of the waste implication of single use products, such as paper coffee cups, and are looking for ways to avoid them. The rCUP fulfils the need for a reusable product, but it is also made from recycled material so helps to reduce waste – and of course it is fully recyclable at the end of its very long life, which no other reusable cup currently is,” said Dicker.

  • Join the debate on plastic. Email Coffee Business World editor Kate Oppenheim and let us know what you’re doing as a business to reduce single-use plastics.
  • ButterflyCup Bio won Best Innovation at this year's European Coffee Expo, for being 100% compostable, biodegradable and recyclable. Its unique all-in-one design also does away for the need for a separate lid, further reducing packaging.
  • European Coffee Expo will be held at London's Olympia on May 21-22. To book a stand click here, or here to register as a visitor.



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