Brand, Coffee Tips

Takeaway Coffee: Can We Pave The Way For A Greener Future?

Walk down any UK high street and you’re likely to pass all the big coffee giants, sometimes twice or even three times. New coffee shops are cropping up all the time, meaning most of us can feed our caffeine needs within mere moments.

Coffee shops are, of course, convenient and timesaving. Does that mean then the idea of home-brewing a cuppa in the morning has become too time-consuming? Using the kettle to whip up a milky instant now a distant memory? We salute anyone who can make a turmeric latte at home.

Our on-the-go mentality has transformed the way we drink coffee. What was once a polystyrene container for a hot beverage, the takeaway cup has now become something of a fashion accessory; a caffeine comfort blanket to help us tackle the first task of the day.

And while this is good news for the industry – with the average Brit spending more than £2k a year on takeaway coffee, and market news such as Coca-Cola’s recent buyout of Costa set to wildly boost its global expansion – it marks very dangerous territory for our planet.

We Brits use and throw away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every single year. Over 99% of these will end up in landfill.

How is this happening, since the major coffee chains brand their cups as recyclable, right? Well, yes, and technically they are. But the fact far too often ignored – or rather masked – is that they actually contain a thin layer of plastic, which only three recycling plants in the country are able to process.

As if this was problematic enough, the actual cardboard content is made from virgin materials. New trees have to be cut down to make the cups in the first place. To be precise, 6.5 billion trees, felled every year, to satisfy our global coffee cup needs.

These staggering statistics should act as a call to action. It’s time to clean up the high street coffee industry, for good. So what can we do?

For a start: the reusable cup.

From bamboo to cork, glass to silicone, we’ve seen a wealth of innovative, eco-friendly, and easy-to-use varieties emerge onto the scene. And with discounts offered for using one at most coffee shops, their sales are booming.

Our favourite one of the mix has to be the rCUP:

The rCUP has taken ‘reusable’ to the next level, by creating the world’s very first coffee cup made from old coffee cups. What’s more, it’s fully recyclable. AND designed to last for at least 10 years. Raise your cup to that!

Not only that, but rCUP are working with the industry to increase the value of the disposable cup. The act of turning a once worthless low commodity cup into a new product (in this case the rCUP) stimulates recyclers to invest in infrastructure and hence a sustainable circular economy has been made. The future is round.

But, if we all carried a reusable in the first place then rCUP would have to find another waste material to replace the paper cup. A challenge they are ready and waiting to accept!

With this model of keeping waste materials in use for longer, we rely less on using natural resources and keep the rubbish heap from getting bigger.  

And yet, while the reusable cup is a great way to curb our throwaway coffee culture on an individual level, it’s also worth looking at the bigger picture.

Our consumption of goods is expanding just as much as our disposal. Did you know that 50% of single-use plastic is used for an average of just 12 minutes??

The truth is, it’s going to take a very long time for reusable to completely replace disposable. It’s an ideal world in which every coffee drinker will buy a reusable cup and remember to bring it everywhere they go. And in any case, should the burden fall only upon the consumer?

The answer is no. It’s also up to the major high street coffee chains, with all the means and resources necessary, to help fix the problem from the source. To take ‘disposable’ and make it 100% ‘green’. To turn takeaway coffee into an ethical, sustainable industry. The good news? Sustainable options are already out there. We just need to get the big brands to implement them.

Here’s our low down of the best recyclable and compostable cups:

1. Frugal Cup

What’s the point in building more specialised recycling plants for our current disposable cups, when Frugal Cup has found a solution? Made from entirely recycled cardboard, the Frugal Cup can be processed by ANY paper recycling facility in the UK, and then recycled again and again. The solution is this. Time to start using it.


2. reCUP®

The reCUP® is just like a traditional cup in look and feel, apart from one crucial difference – it’s engineered to be recycled. The reCUP® uses a material called EarthCoating®, which contains up to 60% less plastic than traditional coatings, and is fully compatible with conventional paper recycling systems. That’s how you do it.

3. Vegware 

Vegware creates 100% compostable disposable cups: made from plants, not plastic. And with Vegware customers saving over a thousand tonnes of virgin materials a year, this is a real recycling solution for zero waste in the coffee industry.

‘I’m a Green Cup’

‘I’m a Green Cup’ quite simply does what it says on the tin. Made from cardboard and starch, the cup is 100% compostable, and comes with a fully compostable lid to top things off. They’ve even released a double-walled insulated version, meaning no need for an additional clutch or sleeve. Ace.

With all these choices and many more to boot, there’s no excuse.

That’s why we’re campaigning to enforce the big coffee chains to use eco alternatives by 2020. With 100k signatures, we can lobby for legislative change and push the government to achieve a more sustainable solution in the UK.

Sign and share the petition, and join us in our mission to #CleanUpCoffee!