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The Square Mile Challenge

A new scheme in the City of London is aiming to recycle five million disposable coffee cups this year.


If you ever travel into the City of London, you sometimes have to watch where you step because of all the thrown away coffee cups and other debris on the streets. Whilst the refuse collectors do an admirable job in collecting and disposing of this rubbish city officials are keen to clear up the problem at source: Coffee drinkers and disposable cups.

A target of five million disposable coffee cups per year has been set for 2018 and beyond and as part of the City of London’s Square Mile Challenge. More than one hundred retailers and another thirty interested organisations, including Network Rail, the environmental charity Hubbub and recycling company Simply Cups, have joined together with the City of London to launch a major push against the steadily growing tide of disposable coffee cups.

Each year only 1% of the 2.5 billion paper coffee cups used in the United Kingdom is recycled. There are a number of legitimate reasons why the figure is so small, mostly because of the type of plastic used to line the cups which cannot be recycled successfully or economically.

The new initiative will see these cups processed in a new way that will see that transformed into a new recovered fibre material, which itself can then be reused for new products.

Shirley Rodrigues, London’s deputy mayor for environment and energy, said: “Until now there has been no consistent, reliable way to recycle coffee cups in the heart of London and so the Square Mile Challenge is a big step forward.”


As part of the new initiative the City of London has seen a number of new yellow coffee cup shaped bins springing up that people can deposit their used coffee cups in. The 100 plus retailers taking part in the scheme will each display a yellow sticker in their windows telling customers that they can also use their site to recycle their waste cups.


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