News / Environment

New bins to prevent millions of disposable cups in Bristol going to waste

By hope riley, Wednesday Jan 29, 2020

A new initiative aims to prevent the thousands of disposable cups thrown away each day in Bristol from going to waste.

From Wednesday, January 29, 100 special bins will be installed across key commuter routes in the city centre, as well as in main shopping areas such as Cribbs Causeway and Cabot Circus, for single-use cups, which will then be recycled into high-quality paper, packaging and stationery products.

Bristol Waste secured funding for the project from environmental charity Hubbub, which launched The Cup Fund thanks to the 5p charge on disposable coffee cups voluntarily introduced by Starbucks to reduce plastic pollution.

In addition, Bristol Waste has teamed up with One Tree Per Child Bristol and pledged to plant a tree for every 10,000 cups recycled.


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Commenting on the For Cups Sake campaign, Gwen Frost, head of sustainability & innovation at Bristol Waste, said: “Thousands of paper cups are thrown away every day in Bristol. Every paper cup popped in one of the convenient cup bins, will get a second life as high-quality paper, packaging and stationery products, and support us on our mission to help Bristol waste nothing.”

James Cropper Cupcycling machinery in action. Photo by Steven Barber

As many as three billion paper coffee cups are wasted every year in the UK. This is largely due to the common misconception that they can be recycled with paper and card, but takeaway cups used by most cafes are lined with a thin plastic coating, meaning they need to be collected and recycled separately.

Once the cups have been collected in Bristol, they will be compressed at the Bristol Waste site in Avonmouth, ready to be transported to the James Cropper paper mill in the Lake District.

Here, the plastic lining is removed from the cup, allowing the paper to be recycled and turned in to high-quality items such as notebooks and paper shopping bags.

The mill’s unique CupCycling facility has the capacity to upcycle 500 million cups every year and 95 per cent of waste is converted back into paper. Energy is derived from the remaining plastic in the production of recycled paper, which creates a ‘closed-loop solution’ to the global problem of disposable cup waste.

Gavin Ellis, director and co-founder of Hubbub, acknowledges that reusable cups are the most environmentally-friendly choice but says this is a viable solution for the billions of disposable cups currently going to waste each year.

“We know that people generally want to do the right thing with recycling, but three in four people are still unaware that cups need to be collected separately from normal card and paper,” said Ellis.

“12 Cup Fund projects across the UK are helping to raise awareness and introduce eye-catching cup recycling points in high footfall locations, and we hope to make it as easy as possible for Bristolians to recycle their cups when they’re out and about.”

To celebrate the launch of the campaign, City Hall will host a light installation – powered by Green power, supplied by Bristol Energy.

The cups are packed into bales ready for recyling. Photo by Steven Barber

Main photo: cup bin on College Green. Photo courtesy of Bristol Waste

Read more: Boston Tea Party’s ban on single-use cups: six months on

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