An autoclaver’s view on the coffee cup crisis
Coffee cups; a perfect example of our throwaway culture and how we are now faced with the consequences of single use plastics.
This is a product created simply for convenience and only recently people come to realise the amount of waste produced and ending up in landfill.
Hugh’s War on Waste reported that 2.5 billion cups a year are used and nearly all of them end up in landfill. When this programme was aired, people were shocked – myself included. This was a product that people assumed could being recycled and the gigantic numbers associated with it would make your head spin!
Now more than ever we are being confronted with the issue of recycling; plastic recycling being the real culprit. Whether we are getting this dire wake-up call through the news, social media or Sir David Attenborough, we can no longer deny the threat from plastic pollution.
When thinking about coffee cups, plastic might not be the first material that comes to mind. But it is the mixture of paper and the plastic lining inside the cup that creates issues when recycling; an issue so big that 99.75% of coffee cups are NOT being recycled.
As this is now at the forefront of many discussions, there are several solutions coming forward. However, are solutions like compostable cups, discounts for reusable cups or charging a ‘latte levy’ on paper cups really going to divert this waste from landfill?
We are reading about recycling coffee cups; Costa Coffee has pledged to recycle 500 million cups by 2020, but there are apparently only three facilities in the UK that specialise in this recycling – is this really enough to make a difference?
Another solution that should be taken seriously is steam autoclaving. At Wilson we have trialled batches of coffee cups and have successfully created a biomass fibre from the paper portion which can be used as source of renewable energy and have easily separated the plastic which can be sold back to the industry for reuse.
We are hopeful that steam autoclaving will soon be at the forefront as a solution to coffee cups. We know we can efficiently process this specific waste stream and create products for the circular economy.