Hubbub is delighted to announce #TheCupFund, a new grant fund that has opened that aims to kickstart paper cup recycling across the UK. The fund is possible thanks to the 5p charge on disposable coffee cups voluntarily introduced by Starbucks across all their outlets. The 5p charge has doubled the number of people using reusable cups, and now the fund will make it easier to recycle paper cups. 

The Fund will support at least ten recycling projects around the country with grants of between £50,000 to £100,000 available to suitable projects. As well as financial funding, Hubbub will provide ongoing guidance and advice to the winning programmes to help them deliver infrastructure with a long-term benefit.  We hope to receive applications from a range of organisations including local authorities, recycling companies, property owners and social enterprises. Full details are available at

The Cup Fund is financed by Starbucks, who introduced a 5p charge on paper cups in 2018 to encourage customers to increase their use of reusable cups and avoid the charge.  The instore charge has seen reusable cup use increase from 1.8% nationwide to over 5% on all hot drinks sold. The proceeds are donated to Hubbub to carry out environmental projects that increase recycling as well as behaviour change studies to understand more about consumer behaviour, including the barriers that prevent more people using a reusable cup.

The Cup Fund is a significant step in Hubbub’s drive to reduce the environmental impact of paper cups and for Starbucks to find new ways to get cups into recycling waste streams once they have left their stores. For Hubbub, this started with a lone cup recycling bin on Oxford Road in Manchester to see how the public would react. Building on this insight the Manchester campaign recycled 30,000 cups from one street which were transformed into a range of recycled products that were donated back to Manchester to help green the city.

The learning from Manchester led to the UK’s largest coffee cup recycling campaign launched in the heart of London in 2017. The #SquareMileChallenge has recycled over five million coffee cups and built a lasting legacy of recycling points in businesses and retailers in the City of London.

The #SquareMileChallenge demonstrated the impact of a collaborative approach and led to Hubbub bringing together a coalition of 25 companies to pioneer ways to boost recycling on the High Street in Leeds. Paper cup recycling is a major part of #LeedsByExample which has been testing new bins, recycling reward machines and new forms of communication. 

Early results have been encouraging which has generated considerable interest in the recycling journey of a paper cup. The Leeds campaign is being independently evaluated and results will be openly available in early May. You can learn more about Hubbub’s experience of cup recycling campaigns here.

Both Hubbub and Starbucks recognise that recycling is only part of the solution and encouraging more people to drink from reusable cups is environmentally preferable. Starbucks was the first major retailer to test the impact of a 5p charge on disposable cups in 35 London stores when the pilot began in 2018. Hubbub helped assess the impact of this approach, you can see the results here

The success of the pilot encouraged Starbucks to extend the approach nationally.The 5p charge is donated to Hubbub for campaigns that raise awareness about plastic pollution and put in place practical solutions.

The first of these campaigns was a Plastic Fishing competition, arranged in partnership with the Daily Mirror, which is taking a recycled plastic boat to four locations around the UK and helping communities to remove plastic pollution in rivers and waterways. #TheCupFund is the second major announcement showing how the funding will make a difference, with the ambition to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle paper cups.

The next strand will be to pioneer new ways to encourage more people to drink from reusable cups. Hubbub is working with creative agencies to explore approaches and Hubbub will be testing them in five areas later this year. 

The launch of this fund is a significant new development and part of a wider strategy to reduce the environmental impact of paper cups. Our aspiration is that the fund will stimulate a range of large-scale cup recycling schemes which will make it easy for people to recycle paper cups across the UK. Hopefully over time the number of paper cups used will diminish as new approaches are introduced increasing the uptake of reusable cups.