Coffee. It's the fuel of the nation. We throw away 7 million coffee cups a day and less than 1% are currently recycled. If like many, you enjoy a coffee fix on your morning commute through the City of London, but haven't quite made your mind up on which reusable cup to buy, this is your chance to make a difference.

In April 2017 we launched the Square Mile Challenge with the aim of collecting and recycling half a million coffee cups in April alone. We’re delighted to say that we made it! Thank you to everyone who recycled their cup, helping us to collect 509,091 coffee cups, all of which will now be recycled into something new.

4 million coffee cups collected

The Challenge isn’t over, though – we have now collected almost 4 million coffee cups! Please keep recycling everywhere you see the yellow coffee cup logo and get in touch if you’d like to get involved.

The campaign is part of a record collaboration between many of the major coffee retailers, 35 businesses, the City of London and Network Rail at Liverpool Street Station, together creating 117 places where you can recycle your coffee cup around the Square Mile, wherever you buy it from.


Throughout the first month (April 2017), 7 giant yellow coffee-cup bins were positioned on streets across the City of London to collect cups for recycling and raise awareness of the campaign. The City of London couldn’t host these bins for longer than a month, but there are still more than 100 recycling points across the Square Mile in every branch of Costa, Marks & Spencer, McDonalds, Nespresso, Pret a Manger and Starbucks. Look out for the yellow cup in windows!

The sticky issue

The UK throws away a whopping 2.5 billion coffee cups a year. Less than 1% of these cups are recycled, even if they have a green recycling sign and you put them in the recycling bin. The tricky issue is the mix of the plastic film on the inside of the cups which need special treatment to separate and recycle, plus the dregs of coffee which contaminate the recycling.

Find your nearest #SquareMileChallenge bin

These locations were accurate at the time of the campaign launch in April 2017, and some may now vary depending on the business and their involvement. 

How the collected coffee cups will be recycled

All coffee cups collected for the #SquareMileChallenge will be recycled. There are two ways, the first shreds the whole coffee cup, processing it into a resin which is mixed with recycled plastic to create a new mouldable plastic material. This can then be made into a range of products such as picnic benches, trays and coasters. The second involves separating the plastic lining and paper in the coffee cup, so the plastic can be removed and fibres can be recovered and made into products like cardboard containers.

What happens next?

We hope to create a model that can work anywhere, so if you’d like more information about bringing coffee cup recycling to your workplace or area please drop us a line at [email protected].  

With thanks to the following for joining the #SquareMileChallenge collaboration: 

Funders: Bunzl Catering Supplies, Caffè Nero, Costa, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Pret A Manger, Starbucks and coffee cup manufacturers: Benders Paper Cups, Dart Products Europe, Huhtamaki and SEDA International Packaging Group.
Partners: City of London, Network Rail, Simply Cups.
Participating businesses: 110 Fetter Lane, 40 Holborn Viaduct, 70 Gracechurch Street, 70 Mark Lane, 99 Gresham Street, Aspen Insurance, AXA Investment Management, Baker McKenzie, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, CBRE, Charles Russell Speechlys,City of London Corporation, Deloitte, Dentons , Eversheds Sutherland, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, GVA, Holman Fenwick Willan, ING Bank, Investec, JLL, Juxon House, Kings College London, Lloyd's, London, Metropolitan University, London Stock Exchange, M&G, Moor House, Prudential , Regis House, The Barbican Centre , The Broadgate Estate, The, Guildhall School of Music & Drama , The Leadenhall Building, The St Botolph Building, Vocalink.

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