21 July 2016


Q Why hasn’t the industry taken action before?

A The industry has been working together for some time to develop solutions to the challenges of paper cup recycling – that is why the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG) was set up in the first place in 2014.   The PCRRG has funded research and is currently funding a trial that will report in September 2016, which will help determine where attention should be focused in increasing recycling and recovery rates and what barriers need to be overcome.

The FPA and the PCRRG are working closely with representatives from all aspects of the paper cup supply chain to secure support for new initiatives.

Q Are paper cups recyclable?

A Yes, paper cups are technically recyclable – the paper fibres contained within a paper cup can be recycled if the cups end up at a reprocessing facility with the appropriate technical capability. However, many of the paper mills in the UK currently view paper cups as challenging to recycle due to the processing time required to separate the paper fibre from the plastic coating. Some fibre is freed from the lining during these processes and it is this fibre that is recycled. There are a small number of specialist facilities in the UK that are able to maximise the release of paper fibres from coated board, such as paper cups.   Therefore, whether or not a paper cup is recycled, is currently heavily dependent on which reprocessing facility it reaches.

Q How important are paper cups within the total of UK waste

A Paper cups represents 0.7% of the paper based packaging waste of the UK. This figure is based on data from Defra’s Government Statistical Service report of December 2015. As a percentage of total household waste the figure falls to 0.09%.

Q Why not tax paper cups like the carrier bag charge?

A The FPA and PCRRG believe that the issue of paper cups is not similar to the ‘bag tax’. Taxing single-use paper cups will not increase recycling infrastructure, taxing single use paper cups will not affect behaviour of those who litter and the signatories to the Manifesto believe changing consumer behaviour through education is the route to achieve this.

 Q Why not introduce a Deposit Return Scheme and get consumers to return their cups?

A The challenge here is that the value of the returned cup is very low and motivating consumers to return used cups in a condition good enough to recycle for very little reward is considered unlikely. The introduction of a deposit scheme will also not address the lack of current recycling infrastructure for paper cups.

Q Why don’t the brands issue consumers with re-usable cups?

A The retail coffee brands are, in some instances, issuing or selling their consumers re-usable cups.

Q Why are paper cups so difficult to recycle?

A To recycle a paper cup, the necessary polyethylene plastic (PE) coating must be separated from the paper fibre. This process is time-consuming and, for the reasons given in 2 above, there are currently limited, specialist facilities in the UK able to recycle PE-coated paper board.

Q Don’t these arguments relate to all types of take-away packaging?

A Not to all types of take-away packaging, as different materials have different properties, but certainly those made from PE-coated board. In addition to being used to make paper cups, polycoated board is also used to make other food packaging such as sandwich wrappers, paper-based ice-cream containers, soup and noodle pots, and other food and drink cartons. It is also used widely used across other packaging sectors.

 Q What activity is actually planned? How long will the Manifesto run for?

A A programme of activity will be launched in the autumn once the working groups have defined their areas of activity. Following the launch of the Manifesto on 27th June the working groups developing detailed delivery plans for each of the focus areas of the Manifesto.    The Manifesto will be in place until the objectives are achieved.

 Q When will we see the first action as a result of the Manifesto?

A The first action is planned for August 2016 in Manchester.

 Q Who is governing the Manifesto?

A The Manifesto is governed by an elected executive, to which the working groups will be responsible and which will control the budget.

Q Who is funding the Manifesto?

A The Manifesto is funded by those companies who have signed up to its principles.

Q What does the government think of the Manifesto?

A Defra has recognised the Manifesto and views it as a welcome example of industry working together.

 Q How will the Manifesto group report on progress? Will this be done publically?

A Yes, all activity will be transparent and accountable.

 Q Is this just the industry’s knee jerk reaction to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “War on Waste” campaign?

A The FPA and PCRRG have been working for some time on the issues presented by recycling paper cups and the topic was widely debated at the FPA Environment seminar in January 2016. However, both parties acknowledge that more needs to be done and more quickly. The FPA and PCRRG welcome the attention to the issue that has been generated by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programme and that it has kick started the whole supply chain to take action.

Q Have you spoken/ shown Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall the Manifesto? If not, why not? If yes, what is his view?

A We have kept the show’s production company, Keo Films, informed about our activities and they are aware that we have worked on and produced the Manifesto.  Hugh said: “I understand that it takes time to get things changed, but it doesn’t take long to admit things need changing and get the wheels in motion”. The Manifesto has seen the industry work closely together in the past three months and is confident that it has put the wheels of change in motion.

Q Why haven’t some of the companies who attended the Paper Cup Summit signed up to the Manifesto?

A The industry reaction to the Manifesto has been very positive and we are delighted that more than 30 organisations have signed up including major retail brands, cup manufacturers, paper board manufacturers, recyclers, waste processors and relevant partner organisations.

Q What is the Manifesto’s position on paper cups having the recycling logo on them if they can’t be recycled?

A The Manifesto does not have view on this at this stage, the work carried out will help answer this question.

 21 July 2016