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Trinity Leeds leads coffee cup recycling initiative in UK first

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Trinity Leeds is at the forefront of a pioneering campaign to revolutionise the way disposable coffee cups are being recycled.

Specially-designed bins and signage have now been installed to ensure visitors’ used coffee cups are properly recycled instead of going to landfill.

In a UK first, an industry-wide working group – established by Trinity Leeds owners and FTSE 100 property company Landsec – have partnered with a consortium of national coffee retailers, led by Costa Coffee, for the initiative that aims to vastly improve the sustainability of the coffee industry.

As well as Trinity Leeds, two other Landsec retail destinations – Bluewater and Gunwharf Quays – are running individual trials to establish the best way of encouraging customers to dispose of their coffee cups properly to ensure the cups reach appropriate papermills in a suitable condition to be treated and recycled. The trials are being run with partners such as The Hubbub Foundation, an environmental campaign charity.

There are significant barriers preventing disposable coffee cups from being recycled, despite a public wave of enthusiasm for waste reduction and recycling. The 5% plastic insert inside the cups is difficult for papermills to remove, whilst UK legislation also prevents papermills who produce food packaging from recycling disposable coffee cups. This includes a large majority of UK papermills, and waste companies have historically been reluctant to shoulder the cost of the increased transportation and logistical implications of delivering cups to a mill which doesn’t produce food packaging.

To change this, Landsec is intervening at two key points in the lifecycle of a coffee cup. At the point of disposal, Landsec is working to increase the number of cups that consumers put in dedicated coffee cup recycling bins or are recycled in-store, therefore reducing the likelihood of contamination and increasing the rate of successful recycling. As part of the trial, there are both new bins and new signs at each of the retail destinations, alerting consumers to the importance of separating used coffee cups from other waste.

Landsec is also ensuring that, after collection, used coffee cups are distributed to a suitable mill, by brokering relationships between coffee retailers and waste companies. Landsec’s unique position in the supply chain means that it is able to promote a best-in-class approach to waste management.

Although individual coffee retailers are responsible for the sale of the cups, Landsec, as the property owner, assumes responsibility for the waste generated at its sites.

Tom Byrne, Sustainability Manager, Landsec, commented: “Problems of this scale cannot be eradicated by one organisation – or even one industry – alone. The complexities of supply chains are such that we need to view sustainability issues holistically, to drastically reduce the amount of waste that doesn’t get recycled.

“Consumers are largely unaware of the significant barriers to recycling coffee cups on a large scale. This initiative is about bringing organisations together to find a solution, in a pragmatic and practical way.

“We’re saying to the industries involved that we can see what the problem is, we’ve got a good idea of how to fix it and we’d like to work together to do so. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to sharing the outcomes of our trials in due course.”

Ollie Rosevear, Head of Environment, Costa, said: “Costa Coffee has been at the forefront of addressing the complex issues around coffee cup recycling and we’re delighted to partner with a landlord as forward-thinking and passionate as Landsec to look at increasing the recycling rates within their operating environments. We are collectively working on exciting solutions with the will of consumers wanting to do the right thing and look forward to further innovating UK-wide solutions”.

Landsec plans to roll the scheme out across the rest of its portfolio in the coming months.