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    Concerns raised as paper cup takeback scheme delayed

    Photo: iStock

    Packaging industry has expressed concerns as the government has now confirmed a delay to mandatory paper cup takeback.

    The development follows the announcement by Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) last week of a 12-month delay until October 2025 to the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, that would make businesses and producers pay for the cost of recycling their packaging.

    The takeback of paper cups by retailers was scheduled to be put in place in 2024. Under the scheme, businesses with more than 10 full-time or equivalent employees will be mandated to takeback paper cups.

    This applies to all drinks supplied in paper cups, either for ‘on-the-go’ or ‘sit-in’ consumption. Retailers will be required to provide for the separate collection of both their own and their competitors’ used cups via in-store and front-of-shop collection points – also taking on responsibility for arranging the paper cup collection and recycling.

    The Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) noted that a number of major retailers have invested significant sums over the last few years to provide facilities under the National Paper Cup Recycling Scheme – a voluntary and industry-led organisation. The scheme is highly effective due to the close relationship established between the paper cup supply chain, paper cup recyclers, and waste management operators.

    The FPA said the National Paper Cup Recycling Scheme offers a model that could be expanded to attract more retailers and increase recycling, and any delay in introducing mandatory paper cup takeback could have a negative impact on the growth of retailer support and participation.

    “Businesses from all sectors of paper cup use are keen to make the takeback scheme work”, said Martin Kersh, executive director at the FPA. “Why dampen this enthusiasm, especially given the large increase in targets for recycling fibre-based packaging?

    “The FPA hasn’t been consulted on any delay to the launch of the takeback scheme”, Kersh continued, “If government had asked us our response would have been: ‘Please don’t put the start date back. The voluntary scheme is continuing to grow, so let’s get on with increasing the number of paper cups being recycled. Businesses don’t want a delay and our members are keen to meet Defra’s targets’”.

    Rob Tilsley, fibre operations group leader at papermaking company James Cropper commented: “We have increased our capacity by 40 per cent at our CupCycling plant – allowing us to recycle up to 700 million cups per annum – and have expanded the areas from which we will be collecting cups.

    “Organisations from across the cup recycling ecosystem have invested heavily in supporting the mandatory takeback scheme, seeing this fantastic opportunity delayed is an unnecessary set back.”

    Hannah Osman, national cup recycling scheme manager at environmental compliance solutions provider Valpak, added: “We have been teaming up with the key stakeholders in cup recycling for some time and seen significant investment in infrastructure as well as a high level of collaboration.

    “Having experienced such progress, it is vital at this stage that the industry is provided with certainty on the timings for implementing mandatory cup takeback”.

    Kersh concluded: “Our members and their customers are really trying to increase the recycling of paper cups and it’s concerning that this latest delay announcement will inevitably put a brake on this.”

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