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Home News RECYCLING COFFEE CUPS: LESSONS FROM LEEDS

Guest post by Hubbub director, Gavin Ellis

The impact of Blue Planet II has stirred the nation’s conscience and has made packaging and recycling front page news. One of the biggest challenges is how to recycle packaging and containers thrown away on the High Street. We are a nation increasingly eating and drinking on the move but recycling infrastructure has not kept pace with this.

In response, Hubbub has brought together 25 major companies to invest in a trial campaign in Leeds to boost ‘on the go’ recycling rates. #LeedsByExample has been running for four months with the support of local organisations such as Forge Recycling, Leeds City Council and Zero Waste Leeds.

Recently 159,000 coffee cups were sent from Leeds to James Cropper’s paper mill in Kendal, a significant step in the papermaker’s ambition to help recycle some of the estimated three billion take-away cups that are currently thrown away in the UK each year. Through its unique CupCycling™ technology - the world’s first process dedicated to upcycling disposable coffee cups – James Cropper has the capacity to upcycle 500 million used coffee cups into premium papers and packaging.

Here are four things we have learned to-date:

1) THE COMMUNICATION APPROACH IS WORKING

The campaign results so far are positive. Cup recycling is increasing, the level of contamination is manageable and there is growing positive awareness about the scheme.

To-date we have placed large-scale displays in Trinity shopping centre, run a digital advertising campaign and held an ‘influencers event’ to reach 18-25 year olds via social media.

2) WE NEED BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE FOR CUP RECYCLING

There are sufficient recycling facilities in the UK to recycle all the paper cups we use. We now need to build an infrastructure to effectively collect cups. Together with Forge Recycling we have introduced a whole new network of recycling bins solely for coffee cups across Leeds city centre, making it easier than ever for the public to recycle their cup and as a result we’ve already collected 200,000 cups since mid-October.

A key message is what can be created from recycling coffee cups – for example sustainable stationery and retail packaging - and we’re looking to add bespoke products for Leeds.

3) THERE’S A ROLE FOR SOME CUP BINS ON STREET

Previous Hubbub campaigns such as #1MoreShot and #SquareMileChallenge demonstrated that managed spaces are the ideal place for collecting cups while street bins have been more problematic due to contamination.

We were cautious about introducing on street cup bins in Leeds. However, we’ve found that they can be very effective particularly in high footfall locations such as outside the train station.

4) EXPERIMENTATION, MONITORING AND REACTING QUICKLY IS CRUCIAL

The aim has been to learn fast and learn cheap. For example on-street cup bins which stacked cups had to be removed within a week as people didn’t stack or separate their cups, causing overflowing bins and litter.

Contamination is still an issue in some bins and we will continue to test different types of bins and messages to discover what works best. An independent agency is monitoring the impact of activities and we will share full results in April.

The next step is for more cities to get involved to ensure that more cups make their way to companies like James Cropper to be recycled.

For more information about James Croppers CupCycling™ partnership with Hubbub click here.