The Recycling Association warn focus on paper cup recycling must not impact on quality


The Recycling Association has said that attempts to improve the recycling of coffee cups must not jeopardise efforts to improve the quality of paper recycling.

Tonight, BBC1 will broadcast the latest Hugh’s War on Waste programme by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, in which he looks at the issue of why 99% of the 2.5 billion cardboard coffee cups thrown away each year are landfilled or incinerated.


But The Recycling Association has warned that efforts to recycle more coffee cups could lead to more contamination when recycling cardboard or newspapers and magazines. There is a risk that when people throw away these coffee cups, they will assume they should be recycled in existing separate paper recycling bins and containers.

The Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin said: “We need to be very careful that more recycling of cardboard coffee cups does not lead to more contamination of the rest of the paper recycling stream.

“By their nature, even these cups when emptied will contain residue of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, all of which will act as a contaminant if mixed with other types of cardboard, office paper or newspaper.

“Plus, the plastic lids may also get mixed in with other sources of paper requiring more sorting and impacting on quality.

“While Hugh’s attempts to encourage less waste are welcome, we need to be very careful that these efforts do not create adverse impacts on a sector where the quality of material supplied to end destinations at home and abroad is vital.

“However, The Recycling Association is always interested in finding a solution, so we are happy to be part of a joined-up approach in the supply chain, to find a way for these cups to be recycled without damaging existing recycling markets.”

Hugh’s War on Waste is broadcast on BBC1 on Thursday 28 July at 9pm.