view share price

Costa Coffee announces commitment to recycle half a billion takeaway cups a year

18 Apr 2018 Sustainability

Cup Recycling Press Release 715x402 1

UK’s favourite coffee shop will guarantee the recycling of cups by paying waste collectors to collect coffee cups and send them to recycling plants

At least 100 million cups set to be recycled this year alone following announcement

Costa Coffee has today announced it will become the first ever coffee chain in the UK to commit to recycling the same volume of cups it puts onto the market in a bid to tackle the challenge of coffee cup recycling and to stop them ending up in landfill.

The UK’s favourite coffee shop will recycle up to 500 million coffee cups a year by 2020, the equivalent of its entire yearly sales of takeaway cups and a fifth of the 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups consumed as a nation each year.

Takeaway coffee cups can be recycled but they must be collected correctly and sent to the right recycling plants. Today’s announcement will see Costa pay to make sure takeaway coffee cups are collected and sent to those paper mills which can recycle them. There are currently 3 UK paper mills (James Cropper, ACE UK and DS Smith*) that can recycle these cups and from today they will move from recycling 14m** cups to 100m this year.

Costa will pay a supplement of £70 to the waste collectors for every tonne of cups collected***. This takes the value of one tonne of cups**** from being worth on average £50 to £120, a 140% increase, making it commercially and financially attractive for waste collectors to put in place the infrastructure and processes to collect, sort and transport coffee cups to recycling plants, meaning fewer cups will end up in landfill. Today’s announcement launches in partnership with five national waste collectors – Veolia, Biffa, Suez, Grundon and First Mile.

Dominic Paul, Managing Director for Costa, said: “Costa is putting its money where its mouth is to find an immediate solution to increasing the volume of takeaway coffee cups being recycled in the UK. It also dispels the myth that coffee cups can’t be recycled!”

“Following today’s announcement up to 100 million cups will be recycled this year alone and if the nation’s other coffee chains sign up, there is no reason why all takeaway cups could not be recycled by as early as 2020.

“At Costa we want to guarantee our customers that if they throw their cup into the right recycling bin it will get recycled, and today’s announcement is a major step towards that happening. We have set our own target to recycle the same volume of takeaway cups we use every year and call on other cup retailers to join and help to build a dynamic market for takeaway coffee cup recycling.”

Commenting on today’s announcement Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey, said:

“Congratulations Costa on taking this significant step to help coffee lovers do the right thing and increase recycling. We all have a responsibility to our environment and this is a significant step by a British business which should dramatically increase the number of disposable coffee cups we recycle in this country.

“We want to help companies become plastic free and through our 25 Year Environment Plan we are putting in place the ambitions to encourage all of us to play our part in ending the scourge of plastic waste in our natural environment.”   

Costa was the first coffee retailer to put in place a nationwide in-store recycling scheme, accepting any branded paper cup, and to date has recycled 14 million cups since February 2017. Today’s announcement will work alongside Costa’s ongoing commitments to increase the use of reusable cups, whilst working with a number of designers and cup manufacturers, looking at how to minimalize and eventually eliminate plastic in takeaway cups.

Costa also offers a 25p discount to all customers that use a reusable cup and recently announced that it will remove all plastic straws from its stores.  As part of Whitbread PLC, Costa was part of the first major UK business to sign up to the ‘Refill’ plastic water bottle scheme, providing over 3,500 refill stations across the country.

Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Scarlett Santi-Brooks or Debbie Lloyd at Unity on 0207 440 9810 or via email at

*There are currently 3 UK paper mills James Cropper (Kendall), ACE UK (Halifax) and DS Smith (Kent) that can recycle takeaway coffee cups. Combined they currently have capacity to recycle over 4.5 billion takeaway cups per year.

**Between February 2017 and February 2018 Costa recovered and recycled 14 million takeaway cups as part of its in-store recycling scheme. Cups were collected from stores and recycled via one of our waste partners, Veolia.

***Costa will pay £70 per bale of cups to waste contractors. An additional £5 will be paid to ValPak, an independent third party, who will audit the system and report on recycling rates. The £5 will contribute to the management of the system.

****On average there are 83,000 cups per tonne based on an average of each cup weighing 12g.

Statements from Waste Collectors

  • Commenting on the announcement, Daren King, Sales Director at Biffa, said: 

“We are delighted to support Costa, and indeed the whole sector, with this important development to the way in which coffee cups are collected and recycled. This new initiative fits well with Biffa’s unparalleled collection capability across the UK.”

  • Commenting on the announcement, Bradley Smith, Grundon’s Sales & Marketing Director said:

“After working with my fellow members of the PCRRG for a number of years, running trials to find the most sustainable outlets for the recycling of paper cups, we welcome the announcement that Costa Coffee are committing to recycling half a billion takeaway cups a year.

“Costa are helping to create the right conditions where paper cups can become a valuable recycled material. This provides increased stability and confidence in the market, which will help waste management companies, like Grundon, to extend paper cup recycling services to more customers.”

  • Commenting on the announcement, David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK said:

“SUEZ has long-backed the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and we truly believe that producer-contribution schemes have the potential to transform the long-term sustainability outlook for the UK – moving us all closer to achieving a circular economy, where materials are used and re-used over and over again.

EPR is a fair and equitable concept which sees producers help to mitigate the costs associated with recycling the products and packaging they place into the market.

We applaud Costa for leading the charge to help tackle the challenges associated with recycling coffee cups, and we hope that this financial incentive helps Costa to meet its ambition of recycling 500 million cups a year by 2020 – while also perhaps encouraging others in this market to follow suit and take similar action.”

  • Commenting on the announcement, Bruce Bratley, CEO, First Mile said:

“First Mile believes in a world where you should be able to recycle everything. Servicing over 20,000 London businesses including hundreds of coffee shops in the capital, we’ve seen first-hand the growing demand to provide responsible solutions for these more complex products and have recently responded with a coffee cup sack to help businesses recycle more. We’re thrilled that through Costa Coffee’s commitment to funding a recycling solution for their coffee cups we will together reduce the number of these items needlessly finding their way to landfill or incineration.”

  • Commenting on the announcement, Gavin Graveson, COO, Veolia UK & Ireland:

“We dedicate ourselves to supporting customers like Costa reach their sustainable and environmental goals and welcome their commitment to invest in recycling. Funding towards greater collection capability is a step in the right direction.

“We all have our part to play and there is plenty more to do, with millions of disposable cups still not entering recycling streams. If more packaging was made easily recyclable and contamination minimalised we would be able to reuse even more material.”

 Statements from Waste Reprocessors

  • Commenting on the announcement, Mandy Kelly, Senior Recycling Manager at ACE UK said:

“We are delighted to support this fantastic new initiative which will deliver a step change in paper cup recycling. We have learned from our work developing infrastructure for food and drink carton recycling in the UK that the easier it is for consumers to recycle, the higher the recycling rate.

“ACE UK’s own bring bank network, which collects food and drink cartons for recycling at our specialist facility, has been accepting paper cups since the start of this year and we see this as a further opportunity to receive and reprocess collected paper cups from other suppliers.

“This initiative by Costa will mean many more new collection opportunities, through its support for waste contractors, dramatically driving up the volume of cups recycled.”

  • Commenting on the announcement, Peter Clayson, General Manager for Business Development and External Affairs at DS Smith Recycling, said:

“Our recent feasibility study, run in close collaboration with Costa, proved the recyclability of coffee cups through our traditional paper pulping processes.

“As the operator of the UK’s leading recycled paper mill, we have the technology and capacity to recycle up to the 2.5bn coffee cups thrown away every year.

“To do so, however, requires close collaboration across the supply chain to ensure that coffee cups are disposed of and collected correctly. We believe legislative action and government-driven funding is essential to eradicate coffee cups from landfill, but voluntary initiatives – such as this announcement from Costa – play an important role in recycling all coffee cups by 2020, and demonstrating how future recycling mechanisms can be funded. We look forward to continuing our work with Costa to make these solutions a reality right now.”

  • Commenting on the announcement, Phil Wild, James Cropper PLC CEO said:

“Seeing the high-quality material available in coffee cups go to waste on such a huge scale is what led us to develop our CupCycling™ technology. We established supply networks with coffee houses, waste management companies and brands to bring this waste stream back into value chains.

“By extracting the paper fibre from used coffee cups, not only can we make a wide range of paper products, but our latest innovation, COLOURFORM™ goes a step further by turning it into high quality plastic-free packaging too. 

“Currently only a small proportion of the 2.5 billion cups we use in the UK each year are being recycled. That’s why this new scheme initiated by Costa is a really positive step in the journey to significantly increase these rates and help tackle a longstanding environmental concern.”

  • The average value of a tonne cups is £120. In comparison, the average value of a tonne of plastic is £60 and the average value of a tonne of paper, glass, aluminium etc. is £10.
  • Costa was one of 14 organisations from across the paper cup supply chain to sign an agreement with the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE UK) to accelerate UK recycling of PE lined paper cups in January 2018.Drawing on its experience and existing relationships with local authorities, waste management organisations and recycling bodies, ACE UK works to include cups in local authority kerbside collections. Currently 66% of local authorities collect beverage cartons at kerbside, in addition to those which collect through bring banks, and it is hoped to achieve similar levels of coverage for cups.

About Costa

Founded in London by Italian brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa in 1971, Costa is now part of Whitbread PLC.

With over 2,380 coffee shops in the UK and more than 1,300 in 31 international markets we are the fastest growing coffee shop business in the UK and are proud to be the UK’s favourite coffee shop, having been awarded “Best Branded Coffee Shop Chain in the UK and Ireland” by Allegra Strategies for eight years running (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017).

Looking after coffee growers is extremely important to us, which is why we established The Costa Foundation, a registered charity with the aim to relieve poverty, advance education and the health and environment of coffee-growing communities around the world. So far, The Costa Foundation has funded the building of 75 schools and improved the social and economic welfare of coffee-growing communities. 

Visit our brand sites