Costa Coffee pledges to recycle 500m cups a year

Erin O'Neill By: Erin O'Neill
Date posted: 18 April 2018

The UK’s largest coffee chain, Costa, has pledged to recycle as many disposable cups as it sells by 2020. MCS says that this is a welcome start, but the chain should do more to cut down on single-use waste.

Costa cups
© Peter Hearn

We encourage consumers to reduce their single-use plastic usage by taking their own beautiful coffee cup into stores.

Dr. Laura Foster,
Head of Clean Seas
Marine Conservation Society

Around 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK, and 99.75% of these are not recycled. Instead, most disposable cups end up in a landfill, are incinerated, or end up littering our streets, countryside and beaches. They cannot be recycled in normal systems because of a plastic lining which is used to make them waterproof, and the paper element of the cap can only be separated for recycling at a small number of specialist sites.

Under a new scheme, Costa says that 500 million cups a year will be recycled. The firm will pay a £70 supplement to waste collectors for every tonne of cups collected. This gives waste collection companies a financial incentive to take the cups to recycling plants. The firm will also pay £5 per tonne of cups to a firm that will check that the scheme is running as it should.

The coffee giant has around 2380 branches in the UK, and waste collection firms Veolia, Biffa, Suez, Grundon and First Mile have all partnered with Costa in developing the new scheme.

Dr. Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society said: “While we welcome the steps being taken by Costa to increase the pitiful recycling rate of coffee cups (only 1 in 400 is currently recycled), we encourage consumers to reduce their single-use plastic usage by taking their own beautiful coffee cup into stores.”

Many rival coffee shops have brought in schemes to reduce the number of disposable coffee cups that they use, with Starbucks, Pret A Manger, Greggs and others offering discounts on drinks when customers bring in a reusable cup.

MCS’s appeal to tackle the rising problem of plastic in our seas is at

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Join the fight against the 'unflushables'

Did you know?…

MCS first launched the Good Beach Guide in 1987 as a book to highlight the woeful state of the UK’s bathing waters

To date, our beach cleans have removed over 11 million pieces of litter

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes