Want to save the planet and money for your council? Start with a reusable coffee cup

Dorset residents are being encouraged to think about how they get their hot drinks on the go and what’s best for the environment.

The Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP) has largely welcomed the groundswell of public support for the reduction in single use items. Contrary to some perceptions, the less waste generated – recyclable or not – the better for the taxpayer, as well as the obvious benefits for the environment. 

The DWP’s Slim Your Bin campaign promotes the reduction of waste, as well as the value of reusable materials and items.

Disposable paper coffee cups, however, are more difficult to recycle in Dorset.

Disposable paper cups contain a mix of materials (including plastic) that cannot be separated at facilities in Dorset, meaning they can’t be recycled at the kerbside or at household recycling centres. To provide residents with an option to recycle these, the DWP provides paper cup and carton recycling banks in car parks around the county.

The cup and carton recycling banks can accept the typical disposable cups used by most high street coffee shops such as Costa, Starbucks or Caffe Nero, but they cannot take compostable cups.

Many retailers have switched to compostable cups to be environmentally friendly. Compostable cups typically contain a vegetable-based material that replaces the plastic in regular paper cups.

However, to be effectively composted, these cups would need to be processed differently at facilities that the DWP does not have access to for its garden or food waste recycling services. While home composters can be used, the cups may not be broken down effectively so it is advised to check with your retailer.

Therefore, if you buy a takeaway hot drink, the DWPadvises:

Use a reusable cup. These are widely available and cheap to purchase

If you have a regular paper cup, take it to a recycling bank

If you have a compostable cup either ask your vendor if they offer a recycling service or if you can use your home composter. Alternatively, place it in a general rubbish bin.

Councillor Tony Alford, chairman of the Dorset Waste Partnership’s Joint Committee, explains:

“The standard paper cup with its plastic lining can only be recycled by taking it to a special recycling bank found in some of our larger car parks across the county. These are marked as collecting beverage cartons and cups.

The cups described as compostable may take some considerable time to break down at home and the Dorset Waste Partnership does not currently have access to the specialist technologies that are able to compost them correctly.

Of the different types of coffee cup, the reusable one is the all-round winner. These are widely available and everyone can use them repeatedly.”

Most, if not all, retailers will gladly accept the use of a reusable cup when ordering a drink. Some shops even offer a discount or reward scheme for their use. Most modern vending machines also allow for the use of a personal cup or mug.

You can find out more about Dorset’s recycling services on the Dorset For You website.