Starbucks trials recyclable cups in move to tackle landfill waste

Inventor of eco-friendly Frugalpac cup in talks with other coffee chains and supermarkets about using it as standard

Starbucks will trial a fully recyclable coffee cup in its UK shops, which could eventually divert huge numbers of cups away from landfill.

The cup, invented by the entrepreneur and engineer Martin Myerscough, aims to reduce the environmental impact of the 2.5 billion paper coffee cups used in the UK each year. Earlier this year it emerged that only one in 400 were recycled and the rest sent to landfill or incineration. This led to calls for a ban, an idea the government rejected.

Conventional takeaway cups produced in bulk are made from paper but are laminated with plastic, making them difficult to recycle.

The Frugalpac cup, which launches on Thursday, has a thin film liner designed to separate easily from the paper in the recycling process. This leaves 100% paper, which can be recycled.

The cups will feature in a forthcoming television investigation by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. For his next War on Waste documentary, which airs on BBC1 on 28 July, the chef and campaigner has challenged major coffee shop chains to explain why more cups are not recycled and consumers not given better information about environmentally friendly disposal. But Starbucks, one of the UK’s largest coffee chains, is set to be the first retailer to test the product, saying it will trial the Frugalpac cup in some branches.

A Starbucks spokesman said: “We are very interested in finding out more about the Frugalpac cup and we will be testing it to see if it meets our standards for safety and quality, with a view to trialling its recyclability.”

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his War on Waste documentary, which will feature the Frugalpac cup.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his War on Waste documentary, which will feature the Frugalpac cup. Photograph: Gus Palmer/Keo Films / BBC

Myerscough said: “Hugh’s team approached us back in January to find out more about the cup, which was still in prototype form. We think Frugalpac will make a huge contribution to the solution and we’re looking forward to working with the industry to make this happen.”

In March the government watered down statutory plastic packaging recycling targets just days after high street coffee chains were criticised for allowing millions of coffee cups to end up in landfill.

Myerscough is in talks with coffee shop chains and supermarkets about using the cup, which will be manufactured in the UK, as their standard product. He said: “We’ve spent the last two years developing our cup and we hope now that coffee chains and cup producers will see Frugalpac as an answer to this issue.”

Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign has led to the industry setting up a Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group (PCRRG) to examine the issue in more detail. This includes a pledge to significantly increase paper cup recycling rates by 2020, which has been signed by 30 companies, including Caffè Nero, Costa, Starbucks, McDonalds, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Greggs and Pret a Manger.


Rebecca Smithers

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Starbucks introduces reusable cups

Coffee chain says £1 cups will encourage customers to cut waste and save them money on every order

Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent

19, Apr, 2013 @5:30 AM

Article image
MPs call for 25p charge on takeaway coffee cups ahead of possible ban
In UK 2.5bn disposable cups are thrown away each year, of which less than 0.25% are recycled, according to environmental audit committee report

Sandra Laville

05, Jan, 2018 @6:01 AM

Article image
Starbucks trials 5p takeaway cup charge in attempt to cut waste
People buying hot drinks in cardboard cups in 35 London branches will pay ‘latte levy’

Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

26, Feb, 2018 @7:26 AM

Article image
Tories lambasted for rejecting 'latte levy' on takeaway cups
Government accused of warm words but no action on reducing throwaway packaging waste

Sandra Laville

09, Mar, 2018 @6:01 AM

Article image
Will a 25p charge change Britain's throwaway coffee cup culture?
On a busy Guildford high street reaction to the proposed ‘latte levy’ is mixed. While many welcome the move to change peoples’ habits, for some, already feeling the squeeze of a weak pound, the 25p hit is too high

Sandra Laville

05, Jan, 2018 @11:31 AM

Article image
Why Britain’s 2.5 billion paper coffee cups are an eco disaster
With only one in 400 cups recycled, and even those barely ‘green’, the hunt is on for an alternative

Jamie Doward

26, Apr, 2020 @6:05 AM

Article image
Starbucks introduces 'latte levy' of 5p on single-use paper cups
Coffee giant first in UK to add charge in bid to cut overuse of 2.5bn disposable cups a year

Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

10, Jul, 2018 @10:32 AM

Article image
Nestlé, if you care about the environment what's with your disposable coffee cups?
Nescafé’s one-use cups are aimed at busy commuters who want cheap on-the-go coffee, but we already have reusable cups for that

Hannah Gould

09, Jun, 2016 @4:00 AM

Article image
Coffee shops not doing enough to combat huge increase in waste cups
Just 1% of the 2.5bn disposable cups thrown away each year in the UK are recycled, committee of MPs is told

Matthew Taylor Environment correspondent

11, Oct, 2017 @10:49 AM

Article image
Reusable incentives could slash disposable coffee cup waste
Free reusables, 25p charge on disposables and green slogans in cafes could cut some of 2.5bn cups thrown away each year, finds study

Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

30, Mar, 2017 @6:39 AM