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.

The #SquareMileChallenge in the City of London aims to collect 1/2 million coffee cups in its first month, and 5 million throughout 2017, so they can be recycled into something new. The campaign is part of a record collaboration between all of the coffee cup retailers, 35 businesses, the City of London and Network Rail at Liverpool Street Station, together creating 130 places where you can recycle your coffee cup, wherever you buy it from.

Throughout April, 7 yellow coffee cup bins will be positioned on streets across the Square Mile to collect cups for recycling and to raise awareness of the campaign. A further 130 recycling points are also be in place across coffee shops and businesses and these will be staying until the end of the year. 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

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  

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.