Turn any corner in the busy town centre of Guildford on a weekday morning, and someone is carrying a disposable cup bearing the logo of one of the major chains.
Each minute in the UK about 500 of these used coffee cups are thrown away. Every year consumers use and dispose of 2.5bn of them. The vast majority are not recycled.
On the main high street, coffee drinkers come and go, a few searching for the local authority “on the go” recycling bins in which to deposit their used vessel. Few are aware that their well meaning efforts will do little to reduce the waste mountain created by Britain’s £9bn coffee-shop habit.
The UK has just three facilities that can split the paper and plastic components, which line the cardboard cups, for recycling. These facilities are not part of the general recycling system, and less than 1 in 400 cups – under 0.25% – are recycled.
To tackle the waste mountain, MPs have called for a 25p levy on takeaway coffees and teas to fund infrastructure in the next five year to make all cups recyclable.
Off the main high street in Guildford, the likes of Pret a Manger, Costa and Caffè Nero, are all busy with customers; young mothers, businessmen and women with laptops open, and students catching up on their reading.
Those served takeaway cups are often reassured by the recycling logo on the lid or the cup itself. Many of the customers said they believed the cups were widely recyclable.