Coffee Chains Accused of Duping Customers Over Recycling Claims

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16 Mar 2016 --- Britain’s high-street coffee chains have been accused of deceiving customers and contributing to Britain’s landfill problem after it was discovered that only one in 400 papers cups are actually recycled.

The discovery, originally reported in The Times newspaper, found that of the 2.5 billion paper coffee cups thrown away every year less than one percent is recycled.

This is due to the fact that the cup’s polyethylene coating must be removed before the cup can be recycled.

Due to the extra work involved, it is claimed cups are not been recycled through public waste collections and are instead sent to landfill or incinerated.

Café Nero, Costa, Starbucks and Pret have all been accused of making false claims about recycling, hoodwinking customers into believing their cups are environmentally friendly.

Cups from Café Nero and Pret both carry a recycling symbol. The sleeves of Pret cups says “100 percent recyclable” while Café Nero’s says “100 percent recycled.”

Critics say that customers might assume that whole cup is being recycled, when it tends to be only the sleeve which is recycled.

Peter Godwin, the co-founder of Simply Cups, which operates Britain’s only paper recycling service, told The Times that it expected to recycle just six million cups this year, compared to the 2.5 billion that are used in Britain a year.

Goodwin said: “It’s dramatically less than one percent but no one know this. The consumer has trust in the brands that if they put a recycling sign on a cup then that product is being recycled. People are being misled.”

“People are getting fed up with environmental stories and greenwash. We see a great cry in the marketplace for transparency. We need to tell people where the material is going to and what is being made into.”

Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall, the anti-waste campaigner, said: “The truth is [coffee cups] are barely recyclable at all in the everyday commonly understood sense of the word.”

“They cannot be recycled through any of the normal public waste collection services- which are consistently diverting them to be incinerated or sent to landfill.”

Starbucks did not give details of the percentage of the cups its recycles. 

Costa said it was researching how to ensure it cups were recycled effectively.

Pret said it was working with other companies within the industry to find ways to improve the recovery and recycling rates of takeaway cups.

Separately, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has pledged to support the charity WRAP to make food and drinks produce and consumption more sustainable in the future.

The FSA is supporting WRAP’s Courtauld 2015 campaign which aims to: 
• Reduce the resource intensity of the UK’s food and drink by one-fifth, saving £20 billion in 10 years.
• Bring together leading organisations from across the food chain to work together to tackle food and drink waste, greenhouse gas emissions and water intensity.
• Gather signatories including all major UK food retailers, brands, food service companies, trade bodies and local authorities (90 are already signed up).

Michael Wight, head of food safety at the FSA, said: “Food is a valuable commodity and this is why we cannot afford to let food go to waste. We welcome WRAP’s initiative and will be focusing on food waste this year for Food Safety Week.”

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