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DS Smith: Tackling the Takeaway Coffee Cup Crisis

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This week, Costa Coffee, U.K., announced a commitment to recycling the same volume of paper cups it annually puts to market (half a billion). Peter Clayson, GM of business development and external affairs at DS Smith Recycling, U.K., discussed what this means for the recycling industry and looked at how collaboration across the supply chain will prove invaluable in tackling on-the-go waste.

Costa's financial commitment to recycling half a billion coffee cups is another significant step forward in being able to recycle all of the 2.5 billion coffee cups used every year in the U.K., Clayson noted. The commitment comes at a pivotal time, he added, with the coffee retail sector growing and coffee cup recycling still a hot consumer topic, and is great news for recycling in the U.K.

In March 2018, DS Smith announced that, following some trials, it was able to recycle up to 2.5 billion cups at its recycled paper mill in Kent - the largest of its kind in the U.K. From today, Costa's initiative will help get a significant proportion of those 2.5 billion cups to the mill.

During the trial, DS Smith recycled 40 metric tons of coffee cups—more than four million individual cups. These cups were blended in controlled conditions, at a variety of trial ratios, with pure recycled paper grades, producing approximately 3.5 billion square meters of paper that met its stringent quality standards.

With this new capacity available, DS Smith challenged government, collectors, recyclers, and coffee retailers to collaborate to deliver the collection infrastructure needed to help correctly segregate and collect coffee cups for recycling. This voluntary initiative by Costa is a great example of that, helping to provide the financial investment needed to support better on-the-go recycling.

High-profile action from industry leaders is obviously a pivotal step, but there is more work still to be done, Clayson emphasized. The U.K. is still mid-table when it comes to recycling performance, and DS Smith will continue to look for opportunities to engage with the government to make it world class. "If we don't," Clayson said, "we miss the opportunity to get to the desired position wherein every used coffee cup is being recycled.

"We look forward to continuing our work with Costa to realize the full potential of recycling coffee cups, and receiving more of their cups at our Kemsley paper mill," Clayson concluded.


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