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Recyclable coffee cup could save billions from ending up in landfill


July 3, 2014

Martin Myerscough believes that little changes in the way coffee cups are produced could avoid huge amounts of waste

Martin Myerscough believes that little changes in the way coffee cups are produced could avoid huge amounts of waste

Along with a timely hit of caffeine, takeaway coffee can deliver its fair share of environmental angst as the office trash can begins to brim with empty paper cups. But what if, instead of being carted off to landfill, these cups could be recycled up to seven times, much like newspapers and regular cardboard? According to UK-based inventor Martin Myerscough, a small difference in the way these cups are produced could significantly reduce the monumental waste generated by today's coffee-crazed society.

According to Myerscough, Green Your Cup looks and feels just like your regular coffee cup, but with some important differences in its manufacturing. As it stands, most of the estimated 2.5 billion paper coffee cups used in the UK each year are turfed straight into landfill.

A film of plastic tightly bonded to the inside and chemical treatment of the paper help keep your beverage warm and prevent leaking, but also make recycling problematic. Specialist recycling facilities are required to separate the plastic from the paper, involving large amounts of energy and chemicals which makes the process costly and impractical.

Green Your Cups are made using plain, chemical-free cardboard and, while a plastic film still lines the inside, it is held in place with a much lighter application of glue. This is said to be more easily separated and can be processed by normal paper recycling centers, with the plastic film caught by the same filters that catch regular plastic wrappers and labels. And as Green Your Cups don't contain any chemicals, they can be broken down in 6 minutes during a regular newspaper recycling process, while the specialist recycling process can take up to 2 hours.

The company claims that minus the plastic lid, its coffee cups can be discarded into regular waste paper and cardboard recycling streams. It is currently conducting a trial to drum up interest from UK coffee chains and consumers and hopes to begin full-scale commercial production in 2015.

Source: Green Your Cup

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

Is this a joke... recyclable coffee cups is a new idea in 2014? I thought I was reading The Onion.

Tom James

Any respectable coffee shop could have a small dishwasher, carry a stock of 'travel mugs', - available everywhere - then they will fill yours, wash the one you return (quickly) and be ready for the next drinker. A deposit on the first cup purchased will keep the shop afloat so they don't run out of cups.

The Skud

But what about the advantage of sequestrating the carbon in landfills? snark


Better efficiency for recycling is good, but instead how about trying a $0.25 per "disposable" cup recycling fee, in order to convince more shops to encourage customers to bring their own cups, or to use plastic/ceramic cups in-store and get a dishwasher?

Years ago a convenience store near my job started selling nice, insulated plastic Aladdin brand mugs in sizes to match their soda containers, then gave substantial discounts on refills. It's totally hearsay, but I was told by the store manager (about three months later) that they had cut their use of paper cups by nearly a quarter.


Recyclable doesn't make sense when Starbucks will already refill your reusable travel mug and knock 10ยข off the price for not using a paper cup. Reusable is better than recyclable.



Are you living in a bubble or cave. Both of these solutions suggested by you have been tried. Neither of them worked. The $0.10 (not 25 cents) charged by the "green coffee house" drove customers to their competitors. The bring you cup in for cheaper coffee market plan, only brought the vagrants to the store with saved or found coffee cups. Here's an idea. Have a trash can nearby to throw away your empty cup. Recycle the cups and other paper products at the dump.

S Michael

While recyclability is helpful in avoiding landfill, the EPA estimates that 75% of materials consumed in the US are recyclable, where only 30% of that total is recycled. What we found was that infrastructure, points of collection, accountability, systems, innovation, sourcing of value, and product development are all collectively necessary in preventing materials from going to landfill. Even the aluminum can, which is economically valuable to collect and resilient to environmental forces (rain, sunlight etc...) doesn't get 100% recycled. As much as 100 billion aluminum cans are consumed in the US annually, while only 55% are recycled.

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