The City of London is taking on a challenge to boost disposable coffee cup recycling to prevent 5 million coffee cups a year finding their way to a landfill. 

The goal for the challenge is to recycle half a million cups in April, and be one of the first areas in the UK to take on such a “significant” commitment. Watch out for the recycling stations that will make their appearance over the Square Mile.

The City of London Corporation is teaming up with Network Rail, coffee chains, and employers, to introduce coffee cup recycling facilities in offices, shops and streets.


The main challenge so far has been the plastic film lining the paper cups, which disqualifies them from being recyclable. In other words, coffee cups cannot be recycled with standard household recycling or paper recycling.

The first 30 businesses with more than 500 employees to sign up will get a year’s free membership to collection services provided by Simply Cups. Other businesses involved can access discounted rates. As a result, the recycled coffee cups can be repurposed into a range of items (from pencils to park benches) which will be donated to local community projects and schools.

coffee cup recycling challene

Photo: Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash

How can I recycle my coffee cups? 

Big Businesses such as Costa, Pret a Manger and McDonald’s are supporting this initiative with Simply Cups collecting used cups in their stores as a test run. Starbucks is trying out a fully reusable, recyclable coffee cup. 

We all love our coffee, but we need to stop for a moment and think about whether we can make a small change in our lifestyle for big impact.  Ask your coffee chain about how to recycle your disposable cup. Also, change over to a reusable cup or simply bring in your own! It would go a long way in taking the pressure off the landfills.

You don’t need to be in London – challenge the coffee chains in your neighbourhood wherever you are.

Previous Coffee Cup Recycling Attempts

A pilot initiative in Manchester saw 20,000 cups recycled from one street over three months. Gavin Ellis, co-founder of environmental charity Hubbub, hopes “to reach a point where recycling levels for coffee cups are on a par with those for drinks cans and bottles.”

Fast Facts: 

  • Currently, up to 7 million paper coffee cups are disposed in the UK every day
  • Over 2.5 billion coffee cups are disposed every year 
  • Less than 1% of these cups are recycled (think one out of 400). 

Source: Guardian