Better latte than never: The need for circular economy solutions

There’s no worse place to throw your coffee cup than into a general waste bin. Why? There is a very, very small percentage of those cups that actually get recycled.

In the past day, there has been a lot of discussion around the subject of the proposed 25p charge on disposable cups.

What do you think? Good? Bad? Maybe? Undecided?

Here are 5 potential ways to approach the latte levy if it comes into existence.

1. Carry on as you were.

You’ll end up paying 25c more per coffee. You’ll still get your disposable cup.

If you grab a takeaway coffee 3 times per week, with this proposed levy, your annual expenditure in coffee minus any price increases will go up by £39.

2. Start drinking coffee at home instead.

You don’t have to go fancy. A cafetiere can be procured for as little as £6.30 or an espresso pot for the price of £5.99.

A 227g bag of ground coffee from Tesco will cost you around £2.29. Depending on how much coffee you drink, you may need a couple of bags per month. Milk and sugar are optional.

Definitely the cheapest option, though without the ambiance of a cafe.

Of course, if you prefer more expensive coffee, you will not save as much, but it may result in greater satisfaction depending on taste.

3. Choose to drink it at the cafe.

Pros: No disposable cup. Someone else does the washing up (yay).

Cons: Higher price to eat-in in many cafes, although with the proposed 25p levy on disposable cups, it just might even out.

4. Buy a reusable cup.

A basic KeepCup will cost you £7. As the size goes up, so does the price. I like the massive glass ones with the cork, but that’ll cost you more than twice this price.

With the purchase of a basic cup, at 3 coffees a week, that’ll take you about 9 weeks for the cup to start saving you money..

You’ll save £32 during the rest of the year, assuming no price increase in your coffee.

Some high street chains such as Starbucks, Costa, Pret and a few others offer a discount up to 50p every time you bring in a reusable cup. Additional savings!

5. Educate yourself.

Did you know that the UK imports much of its waste to China? Did you know that China recently banned plastic waste from the UK? Since disposable cups contain that pesky layer of plastic to keep them waterproof, it means that they have now become a bigger problem.

Did you know that there are very few companies in the UK that recycle disposable cups? Cup Cycling by James Cropper who turn the cups into beautiful paper, Veolia and Simply Cups who recycle cups into other material are the ones that I’ve found. Any others out there?

Perhaps the solution isn’t as cut and dry as “Let’s impose a 25p surcharge on disposable cups?” There are always unintended consequences as a result of such taxes and levies, and it doesn’t always solve the problem the way one expects it to.

People respond differently to a move like this.

Some forget. Some don’t care. Some succeed. Some try for a while, and then slip back into old habits.

What we need are clear, viable and cost-effective circular economy solutions for dealing with disposable cups.

NextCupCycle seem to have taken recycling that one step further by finding such a solution. It is a collaboration between Nextek, ashortwalk and Simply Cups where coffee cups are recycled into a resin, which is then used to make products. Cool, or what?

I’m curious to see where this venture goes, and excited to see other innovations that take place to bring about circular economy solutions!

Preeti is the Marketing Manager at Blue Patch. Born and raised in India, she spent some time in the US, completing a degree in Psychology and Biology, after which she moved to the UK in 2010 to study an MSc in Finance and Management. She can often be found obsessing over her plants, trying to clamp down on an ever-increasing collection of nail polish or exploring and taking photos of random corners of London. While she loves coffee, unfortunately caffeine is no longer her friend.