Costa’s move to cut coffee cup waste heaps pressure on Starbucks to follow suit, consumer group warns

April 18, 2018

Costa Coffee’s announcement that it will recycle as many disposable cups as it produces in the UK by 2020 piles pressure on Starbucks to follow suit, consumer watchdog SumOfUs warned today. The call comes as a petition demanding Starbucks deliver a comprehensive plan for cutting its vast plastic pollution reached 1 million signatures.

The UK discards more than 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a year. Almost none are recycled because their plastic lining means most recycling plants can’t accept them. Costa has committed to financially incentivising waste collectors to take cups to the right plants. This is a clear step in the right direction from the UK’s biggest coffee firm, which should be accompanied by efforts to reduce the use of disposable cups in the first place.

“The silence from Starbucks is now deafening. Costa’s welcome move shows the coffee giants who built and profited from our throwaway culture have a responsibility to fix the problems they’ve created. Recycling is part of the solution, but we need less plastic in circulation in the first place. Starbucks hands out 8000 disposable cups every minute. It needs to tell consumers its plan to reduce this waste before the plastic crisis toxifies its brand as well as our environment,” said Sondhya Gupta, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs.

Starbucks serves 4 billion paper cups each year, equivalent to 8000 every minute. Ten years ago, it promised the world a recyclable cup by 2015, but that deadline passed without any progress. Last month, following a petition from over 1 million people Starbucks finally committed serious money to the project with a “three-year ambition” and a $10m investment.

The call comes as momentum for change on plastic is building in the US and UK.  Waitrose, McDonalds, Costa and Iceland have recently committed to new approaches to address plastic waste, and even the Queen has banned plastic straws on her estates. In his Spring statement, the Chancellor Philip Hammond said “We must take bold action to become a world leader in tackling the scourge of single-use plastic littering our streets, countryside and coastline.”

Contact: Oliver Courtney,, +44 (0)7815731889