The UK’s largest coffee chain issues 500m single use disposable cups each year but of these a mere 14m had found their way back to recycling in the 12 months to February, with the vast majority of customers unwilling to trek back to one of the chain’s 2,400 outlets to deposit their cup in the designated bin.
This disappointing reality contrasts with the high optimism at the scheme's launch in November 2016, when Costa proudly boasted that it would recycle 30m cups a year.
Acknowledging that ‘customer behaviour’ was the weak link in its recycling chain, Costa managing director Dominic Paul said: “We can’t force customers to bring them back. We have realised that we have to do something much more significant.”
In response Costa will now pay out a £90k reward to waste collection firms to retrieve cups from the general waste collection network and divert them to one of three specialist recycling centres in Cumbria, Halifax and Kent.
While Costa has enthusiastically embraced the carrot it is far less keen to wield the stick, flatly rejecting the idea of a ‘latte levy’ of up to 25p per cup, pointing out that a 25p discount offered to customers with reusable cups was claimed by just 1% of customers.
Costa is still struggling to find the holy grail of high street coffee vendors, a cup capable of being recycled by a standard paper mill.
Costa's travails are set against a global backlash against the seemingly unstoppable rise of plastic pollution.