The truth about recycling coffee cups

What happens with a coffee cup once you toss it in the bin? I had no idea. Until I heard Hugh’s story.

Hugh is standing next to a bus and holds up a megaphone. ‘Waste not!’, he shouts. The typical UK autobus stands tall next to him, made entirely out of coffee cups. Hugh is doing this to make a point: more than 8 million (!) coffee cups are thrown away each day in Britain alone. That’s a bus of waste, every day.


It’s one thing we are creating waste on a daily basis, many of which us tiny individuals feel hopeless standing on the sidelines – but realising that your daily cup of coffee before work is affecting global waste -this- bad, feels like a punch to the gut. What’s even worse? Most Starbucks, Costa or other kiosk coffee cups are not recyclable.


You’d think the cardboard or paper coffee cups actually are recyclable (at least, that’s what the triangular label on the cup told me) – turns out, it’s not. In fact, the cardboard preventing your hands from burning is recyclable; the cup is not.


A possible first solution is to stop creating waste yourself. Me personally, not a frequent coffee buyer – but if I do, I’ll do it by using a reusable cup. This one is available at the local sustainable coffee store Anne & Max in the Netherlands, or shop online (and design one yourself!) at KeepCup.


Secondly, to prevent from more cups being made from grounds that are not sustainable or recyclable, coffee companies would do a great job by adding a charge on disposable cups. Research showed a small charge was enough for one cafe to increase the use of reusable cups. By putting pressure on coffee companies such as Starbucks or Costa to switch to reusable or recyclabe cups, the chain of waste will decrease.


It’s safe to say, all of us are more dedicated then ever to treating our planet with care. And if we aren’t already, we should be. Because there is only so much Hugh can do for the environment in the UK. Sometimes, I’d like to think I can fix the worlds’ problems, but I can’t on my own.

Start your own story; start with yourself.

#WasteNot #WarOnWaste @HughsWarOnWaste

Photo by Anna Pappa from Pexels