Did you know that coffee cups can’t be recycled in normal recycling bins? In the UK, we get through nearly 3 billion coffee cups every year. The cups widely used are made of a super-sturdy combination of paper and plastic, and they need special recycling technology to tackle this. Such recycling plants do exist, but due to a lack of infrastructure to collect cups separately, and a lack of awareness that they need a particular bin, only 4% are currently recycled. Until now, that is...

In 2018, Starbucks approached us about trialling a 5p charge on any hot drink bought in a disposable cup. There’s evidence that charges are more effective than discounts at shifting behaviour, and the 5p charge is additional to the 25p saving customers can make by using a reusable cup. During the trial of 35 stores in London, reusable cup use increased from 2.2% to 5.8% – so the decision was made to roll it out nationwide. Hubbub are the lucky beneficiary of these 5p funds, and we’re using them to run positive, engaging campaigns with the ambition of creating a cleaner, greener environment for all. 

What are we doing with the 5p cup funds?

We’re going back to basics – we’re designing positive campaigns that reduce littering and plastic pollution, increase the use of reusables, and boost recycling. We started with coffee cups and have amplified our impact to other on-the-go packaging. Here’s a flavour of what this looks like: 

1) Switching to reuse 

We're exploring ways to get more people to use a reusable cup, instead of a disposable.

  • At Gatwick airport we ran a returnable cup scheme, where customers had the option to borrow a reusable coffee cup which they then put in a deposit bin to be washed, sterilised and redistributed for reuse. 
  • We trialled a city-wide reusable cup campaign in Manchester that nudged people to remember their cup, through a catchy radio jingle alongside billboard advertising and messaging in coffee retailers. The trial saw reuse in Starbucks stores increase by 2.3%. 

Switch to a reusable cup 

2) Increasing recycling of cups and on-the-go packaging

We’re consuming more food and drink on-the-go than ever before, so we want to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle their packaging whilst out and about. 

  • We have provided one year of grant funding of between £50,000 to £100,000 to ambitious coffee cup recycling projects in 12 locations across the UK. The ’Cup Fund’ is expected to recycle up to 35 million cups in year one.
  • Using the funding from the 5p charge, alongside funding from a range of other industry partners, has led to a total of 348 new recycling bins being been set up across Leeds, Swansea and Edinburgh – and recycling rates in Leeds have rocketed from 17% to 42%. 

recycle on the go wherever you are 

3) Reducing plastic waste and pollution

We want to reduce plastic in our rivers and seas and help clear the air we breathe, so we’re creating simple but effective ways to get local communities involved in the solutions. 

  • We’ve created boats made of 6,000 plastic bottles to undertake a Plastic Fishing Tour in London, Bristol, Manchester, Scotland and Birmingham, helping people to fish plastics from local rivers. The tour collected nearly 2,500 plastic bottles, alongside a scarecrow, a fully decorated Christmas tree and a TV! One Plastic Fishing boat is now permanently situated in Birmingham, helping the local community keep the canals free of plastic litter, whilst another is helping to clean the River Thames in west London. 
  • In London, we gave out 10,000 ‘Give it a Grow’ packs helping people create their own green space, bringing nature into the urban environment.  

And it doesn’t stop there...

Two years on from the launch of the 5p cup charge, and the number of customers bringing their own cup into Starbucks has doubled, saving millions of cups from going to landfill or being incinerated. In 2020, we will be extending recycling facilities to some of the busiest transport hubs across the UK, implementing a returnable cup scheme at another airport and a major sporting event, and planning our biggest campaign yet – a pioneering reuse, refill, repair project encouraging you to love what you already own.

On top of all this, we want to double the amount of people bringing a reusable in Starbucks stores. Will you join us? Stay tuned by signing up to our newsletter, and read more on the 5p trial below. 

download the 5p trial report (PDF)