Working towards a sustainable environment

Environmental charity Hubbub has today (11 April) launched a new funding initiative aimed at helping local authorities and other organisations launch or scale-up coffee cup recycling schemes, after receiving funding to launch the scheme from Starbucks.

At least 10 large-scale schemes will be chosen as winners, meaning that Starbucks will funnel a minimum of £500,000 into the initiative

At least 10 large-scale schemes will be chosen as winners, meaning that Starbucks will funnel a minimum of £500,000 into the initiative

Called the Cup Fund, the programme will offer successful applicants grants of between £50,000 and £100,000 each to develop schemes and infrastructure which ensure that as few disposable paper cups as possible are lost to disposal methods. Winners will also receive ongoing support and guidance from Hubbub.

The funding will be awarded on a competitive basis and is open to a range of organisations wanting to increase infrastructure but lacking funding, including local authorities, recycling companies, property owners and social enterprises. At least 10 large-scale schemes will be chosen as winners, meaning that Starbucks will funnel a minimum of £500,000 into the initiative.

Hubbub said it launched the Cup Fund because, although the UK now has enough specialist recycling facilities to process all of the disposable paper cups used nationwide every year, behaviour change and financing challenges are still preventing organisations throughout the on-the-go drinks sector’s value chain from collecting the cups and transporting them to these facilities.

“We know that local authorities and building managers are committed to achieving their recycling targets – but with increased strain on their budgets, investing in infrastructure is difficult,” Hubbub’s founder Trewin Restorick said.

“The launch of The Cup Fund with Starbucks means we will be able to collect cups in significant volumes in areas where there may not have been any drop off points before.”

The Cup Fund is open until 24 May 2019 and winners will be selected by an independent judging panel, which includes members from the likes of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM). Applicants will be required to prove that their scheme is ambitious, scalable and suitable for high-footfall areas.

An ongoing partnership

Starbucks’ involvement with the project follows its work with Hubbub last year, which saw the coffee chain ring-fence money raised through its 5p charge on disposable cups for investment into Hubbub’s ‘plastic fishing’ project.

After a successful trial of the 5p charge across 35 London stores led to a 156% increase in reusable cup use, which also entitles customers to a 25p discount, the levy was rolled out to all 970 UK stores and linked up with Hubbub’s ambition to engage communities with plastic pollution in waterways last summer.

The charity’s plastic fishing project has funded the construction and operation of three boats, all of which are made using 99% recycled plastic waste, to date. The boats are used to take members of community groups, schools and businesses into waterways to clean plastic debris, with the first two boats based in London and the third vessel set to embark on a UK-wide tour this summer.

Starbucks has also worked with Hubbub on its Square Mile waste behaviour change initiative, which enabled the recycling of 1.2 million cups in its first three months of operation.

The chain’s UK senior manager for energy and sustainability Jaz Rabadia said its involvement with the cup fund marks a “significant step” in improving the way the company reduces the environmental impact of cups taken outside of its stores. Starbucks already has in-store paper cup recycling bins.

Wake up and smell the coffee (cups)

A 2017 study by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) found that just one in every 400 coffee cups distributed within the UK was collected for recycling, with more than 500,000 cups littered every day.

Since then, the figure is believed to have improved to one in every 25 cups being recycled, largely due to actions taken by individual actors and collaborative projects across the business, investment, waste management and public sectors.

Recent examples of such initiatives include the launch of the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG) and Keep Scotland Beautiful’s jointly run Cup Movement in Glasgow and Chiltern Railways’ installation of recycling points across its entire UK estate of 32 stations.

However, the EAC has warned that action to combat coffee cup waste is unlikely to be unified without the launch of a UK-wide ‘latte levy’ on disposable cups. The 25p charge was ruled out by the Chancellor at last year’s Autumn Budget.

Sarah George