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Compostable vs Recyclable Coffee Cups

We are always conscious of our environmental footprint and put a lot of thought into doing the best we can for our planet. We have recently switched from using 100% compostable cups to 100% recyclable ones, even though it is costing us more.

Nettlebed Creamery and The Cheese Shed are totally wedded to organic principles and we love the idea of composting anything that can be composted so that it can be returned to the soil to add organic carbon and enrich soil. However, at present there are very few commercial composting facilities in the UK that accept compostable cups – the overwhelming majority of compostable coffee cups end their life being incinerated or landfilled (where they don’t break down as paper needs to be aerobically biodegraded).

Almost all food waste in the UK goes for anaerobic digestion to create green electricity from biogas, but compostable packaging and cups are stripped at the de-packaging stage and normally sent for incineration. We have looked into composting on-site ourselves but the amount of green and / or food waste we would need to import to balance out the carbon content in the cups in order to compost them effectively would be a big challenge.

Placing recyclable cups into the standard recycling bin is no guarantee they will be recycled – more often than not, they are removed from the waste stream and sent for landfill or incineration as the majority of recycling plans around the country are not set up to process cups.

However, specialist recycling of specially designed recyclable cups is a fantastic way to minimise the amount of waste going to landfill and incineration by recovering the paper for reuse into other paper products. Our cups are collected in special bins to minimise the space they take up, collected by a specialist lorry and taken to the correct plant for recycling.

We will continue to keep an eye on advances in composting and recycling technology, and do let us know if you learn of a local composting facility that would accept our cups!

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