Ahhh, the paper coffee cup! What a beautiful topic to discuss. Last year, articles mushroomed in the press to discuss how these little cups are dumped and go non recycled. Suddenly we seemed the press had found yet another bone to chew and journalists had discovered something incredible: takeaway cups can produce waste. Of course they do! The human activity as a whole produces waste. The problem is not waste. It’s not dealing with it adequately, aka: RECYCLING.
Have a look at Nature. Every time and everywhere there is waste, there is something, an organism or chemical reaction to deal with it and tadaaaa: it's used again. That is called an eco-system. Mark my words and if you want, go ahead and take a moment to prove me wrong. On this beautiful planet earth, where there is waste, something will come to recycle it. From vultures to the smallest bacteria, they’re here to reprocess energy as nature cannot bear to see something useful wasted.
So now you see where I am going: takeaway cups are not a problem as such. The problem is burning down 2.5B cups a year instead of reusing that beautiful paper to create books, bags, and other materials. And in order to get there, we need the right infrastructures: specific bins to segregate the cups together with the collecting & retransformation big framework. Now you understand how important it is to brand the cups to get the cash to finance these new investments and make it all work. We managed to try it all at Cass Business School and with a few bins, clear signs and help from the cleaning staff. We promoted FAIRBY5, one of Action For Children’s campaign supplied the cafeteria there with 5,000 cups (2.5% conversion rate btw), enough to keep them busy for 1 month. And it all worked really well! In fact the ratio cup sold on campus/cups collected was close to 80%. Ok fair enough some cups from the outside were disposed within the campus and boosted that ratio. But still, that give you a good idea of how successful it was. So what are we waiting to scale it up? Company Simply Cups as well as Hubbub are actually well ahead, doing a great job and achieving great results towards recycling cups. So let's finance it all by branding the cups.
But the bottleneck is education.
Educating people to recycle their cups will take time especially because essentially we’re asking for one extra effort. But then it s not paper cups it’s everything. It's recycling as a whole hence the it's the mentality and mindset that need to change. Here in the UK we suck at recycling so we need to start taking a look at Sweden for instance: less than 1% of their waste end up in landfills and they import waste from other countries to keep their recycling plants afloat (it’s insane!)
All in all, apart from "well done Sweden", it's good the press escalated that issue but until we have the right infrastructure and the right education we won't get better recycling scores. And not regarding cups: regarding everything. And before that, try not to consume too much of disposable stuff in the first place.
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