Single use plastic tax – a threat to vending?

A tax on vending cups as part of the introduction of a single use plastic tax could have a serious and negative impact on the vending industry.

The hot drinks vending business is quite different to any other hot drinks retail outlet. Not all machines are cashless, instead most accept silver coins only. This means that the minimum amount of a purchase levy on a cup will be 5p.

As the average retail price of a vending cup of coffee is 27p, the consumer would be hit with a price increase of almost 20%.  Not forgetting that almost half of vended hot drinks are provided FOC, many from machines with no coin mechanism fitted.

Single use cups is a tiny proportion of the UK’s overall packaging waste, but we all need to wake up to this “plastic problem” and play our part. If vending is offered in a working environment, we as individuals cannot ignore what will become of our used cup.

On a more positive note, the vending industry is well placed to promote the collection and recycling of single use cups, as most machines are in workplace sites, so “post-consumer waste streams” should be relatively easy to establish. In fact, the industry has been supporting recycling of both plastic and paper cups for many years and continues to do so.

A “clever cup”


Costa Coffee has partnered with Barclaycard to launch the UK’s first reusable contactless coffee cup.



The “Clever Cup” – available in Costa Coffee stores very soon – is apparently powered by bPay by Barclaycard technology, letting users track their spending, top up their balance and take control to block or cancel the contactless payment element online or using the dedicated bPay app.

The cups form part of Costa’s wider reusable range re-launch, encouraging customers to use reusable cups instead of single-use cups – the company has pledged to recycle 500 million takeaway cups by 2020.

Sold in packaging made from recycled coffee cups, the cup features a silicon base and contactless chip, which is detachable for ease of washing. The technology within the cup can be used wherever customers see the contactless symbol and not just at Costa stores.

Jason Cotta, managing director at Costa Coffee, commented: “Whilst we are committed to ensuring more takeaway coffee cups are recovered and recycled, we also want to incentivise and reward customers who help reduce the number of takeaway cups being wasted.”

The new cup is priced at £14.99, with a £1 donation from every sale going to The Costa Foundation.

Costa commits to recycling



There is more good news on the recycling front.  Costa has announced that it will recycle up to 500 million coffee cups a year by 2020.  This is the equivalent of its entire yearly sales of takeaway cups.


As we know, these coffee cups can be recycled BUT they must be collected correctly and sent to the right recycling plants.  Easier said than done.  But Costa announced that they will pay to make sure takeaway cups are collected and sent to those paper mills which can recycle them – a supplement of £70 to the waste collectors for every tonne of cups collected.

We currently have three paper mills in the UK that can handle these cups, and with this pledge from Costa, the number of cups recycled will jump from 14 million to 100 million this year!

Dominic Paul, MD for Costa said, “At Costa we want to guarantee our customers that if they throw their cup into the right recycling bin it will get recycled, and this announcement is a major step towards that happening.”

What is the NaturALL Bottle Alliance?



The NaturALL Bottle Alliance is a research consortium formed by Danone, Nestlé Waters and Origin Materials to accelerate the development of 100% renewable and sustainable bottles. It has now been announced that PepsiCo is to join this alliance.


The goal of the alliance is to create packaging solutions which significantly reduce the carbon impact of plastic beverage bottles, and the group is currently attempting to produce a PET bottle made purely from bio-based materials such as cardboard and sawdust.

A statement from the alliance says that “the consortium has already produced samples of 80% bio-based PET for a pilot scheme, and expects to achieve a 95% bio-based bottle after the construction and upgrade of a production site in Sarnia, Canada is completed in 2020”.

Once this milestone has been reached, the alliance intends to make bottles commercially available to the food and beverage industry.

Deposit return scheme – an answer to plastic pollution?

We know that plastic bottles and drinks containers have a significant impact on the environment.

In the UK alone, consumers go through an estimated 13bn plastic drinks bottles a year, but more than 3bn are incinerated, sent to landfill or left to pollute streets, countryside and beaches.

The UK government has confirmed that later this year (subject to consultation) it will introduce a deposit return scheme in England for single use drinks containers (plastic, glass or metal).  The consultation will look at the details of how it would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates.

Deposit return schemes aren’t new; a similar scheme, already operating in Germany, sees consumers paying an up-front deposit when they buy a drink (22p), which is redeemed on return of the empty drink container.

“Reverse vending machines” are used, where the consumer inserts the bottle and the machine returns your money. Once the bottles are returned, the business is then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled.  This has been incredibly successful in Germany with the recycling rate increasing to 97%.

This return scheme could increase the UK’s recycling rates and go towards slashing the amount of plastic waste that is wreaking havoc with our environment.  But it needs to happen soon.

The coffee cup challenge

The numbers are huge: 2.5bn single-use cups are thrown away every year across the UK; currently we only recycle one in every 400.

There are numerous companies working tirelessly to solve the throw-away coffee cup challenge, but we need the recycling collection infrastructure to be far better.

The two main challenges to overcome are: firstly, there is the plastic waterproof lining that must be removed from the cups. Then the cups must not be too badly soiled by food waste (collecting the cups as soon as the consumer has finished their drink minimises contamination).

A joined-up approach is needed.  If the recycling companies can work together with local councils, coffee sellers and the waste management sector to improve segregation of the cups and develop a comprehensive collection infrastructure, we can make a huge difference.

Every day in the UK, one in five of us visit a coffee shop for our must have “hot beverage on the go”.  We, the consumer, need educating to “do the right thing” once we have enjoyed that drink, but we need convincing that the cup we hold in our hand can be and is, recycled.

London coffee lovers are being urged to recycle

An excellent scheme was launched in April to urge London’s coffee drinkers to recycle their cups.

The City of London Corporation, Network Rail, national coffee retailers and some of the Square Mile’s biggest employers have joined forces in the Square Mile Challenge initiative led by environmental charity Hubbub, in partnership with recycling company Simply Cups.  The scheme introduces coffee cup recycling facilities across the City and aims to collect and recycle half a million cups in the City of London throughout April, rising to 5 million by the end of the year.

Over 100 high street coffee retailers are offering recycling facilities and accepting coffee cups in their stores, regardless of where they were purchased.

The numbers are huge – every day up to seven million coffee cups are thrown away across the UK, with less than 1% of these cups thought to be recycled.

A coffee cup that grows into a tree

U.S.based company, Reduce. Reuse. Grow. has developed a coffee cup embedded with native seeds that can be planted and grown into a tree after use.

Described as “the most eco-friendly disposable coffee cup ever”, the company claims that it will help the country to address its wastage of 146bn cups every year. “Even when we think we are recycling and doing a good deed, the paper itself within these products can only be reused two to three times before the fibres are unusable and discarded into local landfills without consumers knowing,” the Californian firm said.

Once the cup has reached the end of its functional life, it can be unravelled, soaked in water for five minutes and planted in the ground; the paper itself then decomposes within six months to provide vital nutrients for surrounding plants.  The remaining seeds grow into trees.

The company explained how the venture might work: “The consumer drinks their coffee from the coffee shop. If they choose to take the cup with them, they can plant it in several scenarios based on the seed variety embedded within the cup. The seed variety is displayed on the front of the cup and the planting instructions on the bottom. Unravel the cup, soak in water for five minutes and watch it grow!”

“If the consumer decides to discard the cup, they can place the cup in a special bin where Reduce. Reuse. Grow. (or third parties) can come in and take the cups for local reforestation purposes.”

Fine Art on a paper cup

UK-based paper cup supplier Maxabel International has released a new double-walled disposable cup inspired by the art of Henri Matisse.

The “Cup for all Seasons” is available in 8oz and 12oz sizes, and features an embossed paper wrap that eliminates the need for heat sleeves, and is decorated in a colourful design intended to make it functional all year round.

The design is inspired by Matisse paintings and integrates four distinct colour schemes that represent the seasons of the year.

The company recently became a member of paper cup recovery and recycling scheme Simply Cups, and “had the environment at the forefront of the conception process”. A spokesperson said “Instead of outlets coming up with new cups for each season, this colourful arty design can be used all year round. Our number one priority is to be as eco-friendly as possible.”


PepsiCo to phase out HFCs in its vending machines

PepsiCo has announced that all of its vending machines, water fountain dispensers and coolers will be free of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2020. The chemical coolant is considered a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

PepsiCo said it will begin purchasing new HFC-free equipment in 2015. The beverage giant has reportedly begun to phase out HFCs in its equipment outside of the U.S., buying since 2009 more than 290,000 HFC-free equipment units, which use an insulation foam that doesn’t contain the harmful chemical.

The company said it has also minimised the impact of existing equipment by reengineering its coolers and vending machines to improve their energy efficiency by 60%, compared with a 2004 baseline. These combined efforts have reportedly reduced total greenhouse gas emissions by 18% since 2007.

Meanwhile, the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) filed a request with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking for an extension on the comment period for a proposed rule that could potentially alter the list of acceptable uses for refrigeration coolants used in vending machines and micromarket coolers. If the rule goes into effect, several refrigeration chemicals and blends previously listed as acceptable alternatives to ozone-depleting substances could be considered “unacceptable” in certain circumstances, including in vending and refreshment industry equipment.