The UK’s Costa Coffee has pledged to recycle half a billion coffee cups a year by 2020 and said it seeks to become the first chain to guarantee it recycles the same number of cups as it puts onto the market.
The coffee chain said there was a misconception that coffee cups could not be recycled, and that while the process was more costly, it had reached agreements with five waste disposal firms to guarantee more cups would be recycled.
"We think it's a really neat solution, because it is effective immediately," Dominic Paul, managing director of Costa Coffee, told Reuters. "It's not directly because of the conversations about the tax. It's something we've been working on for quite a while."
Less than 1% of coffee cups are recycled in Britain, which has led to politicians calling for a 25p "latte levy" on disposable cups. The country has resisted those calls and instead encourages voluntary measures to limit cup use.
The Irish Government has proposed a similar 15c latte levy on disposable cups to encourage reusable cups.
Costa said it would pay waste management companies £70 (€80) per tonne of cups collected. Combined with the £50 per tonne they currently receive, it makes it economically viable for the firms to collect the cups. An additional £5 per tonne will go to an auditor.
Waste management firms Veolia, Biffa, Suez, Grundon and First Mile are working with Costa on the scheme, which will start in offices, transport hubs and other locations.
Costa, which is owned by the UK hospitality company Whitbread, said the costs of the programme would not be material. For the target of 100 million cups for the next 12 months, the estimated cost is just under £100,000. The goal is for 500 million cups to be recycled by 2020.
The chain competes with companies like Starbucks and Caffee Nero and Paul said that other firms should join the scheme.
"We think our competitors should join us on this,” he said. “It's the quickest way to get a material number of cups recycled.
”If none of our competitors joined us on this, we would still do it, ultimately that is going to be their decision."
Starbucks recently started offering grants to entrepreneurs working to develop more sustainable cups.
The Seattle-based coffee company is investing $10 million (€8 million) in partnering up with Closed Loop Partners and its Center for Circular Economy to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge.
The challenge is aimed at developing a “global end-to-end solution that would allow cups around the world to be diverted from landfills and composted or given a second life as another cup, napkin or even a chair – anything that can use recycled material,” according to Starbucks.