Press Statement
5 January 2018

Disposable coffee cups a symbol of wider challenge, says CIWM

Responding to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups today, CIWM has said that a solution needs to be found not just for disposable coffee cups but for the wider issue of ‘on the go’ recycling.

“This EAC report provides a useful summary of the challenges we face in developing a more sustainable approach to both disposable coffee cups and, by extension, single-use ‘on the go’ food contact packaging as a whole,” says Dr Colin Church. “However, it also highlights the need now to reframe the debate so that we can move forward. As the report notes, coffee cups are becoming an iconic symbol of wasteful behaviour in the same way that plastic carrier bags did, but the issues here are significantly more complex.

“Prevention remains the best environmental option and as a minimum, CIWM would like to see renewed efforts by coffee retailers to promote reusable cups to their customers and a government-backed voluntary agreement might be a sensible first step.  However, convenience is a function of modern society and a holistic, long term solution for ‘on the go’ packaging waste will still be necessary.  The question we must answer is what outcome is best and what interventions will work most effectively to deliver this outcome. Is it about raising more money – from producers or consumers or both – to develop new, separate collection, sorting and treatment infrastructure for coffee cups and (surely) other forms of disposable food and beverage packaging? Is it is about incentivising new packaging solutions that are recyclable through our existing infrastructure? Is it about ensuring there are sufficient non-food grade end markets for the recovered material? Whether or not the Government is willing to consider a levy, there is still a lot more work to be done by all the stakeholders involved to develop a sensible solution to this very modern waste problem.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. CIWM (Chartered Institution of Wastes Management) is the leading professional body for the resource and waste management sector representing around 6,000 individuals in the UK, Ireland and overseas. Established in 1898, CIWM is a non-profit making organisation, dedicated to the promotion of professional competence amongst waste managers. CIWM seeks to raise standards for those working in and with the sector by producing best practice guidance, developing educational and training initiatives, and providing information on key waste-related issues. More information can be found at

Press contact:
Pat Jennings
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