Adrian Pratt

Adrian’s Wall

Recycling: Ladies and gentleman, here’s the first of a series of personal blogs posted by Mr. Pratt on Adrian’s Wall

To kick things off, Adrian Pratt discusses the mooted latté tax and demonstrates the advantages incumbent in turning a problem into an opportunity…

Unless you’ve been on holiday in Cloud Cuckoo Land since we rang in the New Year, you’ll be aware that the Government Environmental Audit Commission has published its report on Disposable Paper Coffee Cups.

In fact, it’s been all over the media like a rash; second only (in terms of broadcast minutes and column inches) to the latest shenanigans of that disagreeable chap our colonial cousins across the pond refer to as ‘Mr. President’.


Before I begin, I must say that, whatever your opinion on the subject of re-cycling and the latté tax, you must have noticed that our industry’s response to the report was given as much coverage as the report itself – that’s one in the eye right there for those naysayers who propound the theory that there’s no place in modern business for trade associations…

Enough of the ranting already. Down to business!

Forgive me for sounding like a politician, but can I make one thing absolutely clear? Standard paper cups can and are being recycled in the UK right now, today. Fact. What’s more, the rates of recovery are set to sky-rocket in 2018.

The AVA and PCRRG are working slavishly to ensure that the majority of consumers will be able to recycle every paper cup they use by 2020. The focus of this work has been twofold: the creation of a collection infrastructure and the rolling out of an awareness campaign that makes sure consumers know how to recycle paper cups.

recyclingThe results are tangible. The PCRRG and its members have busily been increasing paper cup collection points to make recycling cups on the go much, much more convenient. I bet you didn’t realise that during the course of last year, an amazing 4000 collection points were established.

Better yet, from the start of this year, paper cups have been accepted by local authorities alongside tetra packs (your breakfast orange juice cartons, for instance) and other assorted cartons at Bring Banks and in kerbside collections. As Michael Caine was wont to say, ‘not a lot of people know that’; and that’s a shame because it’s a genuine ‘hurrah!’ moment that has, sadly, passed a lot of consumers by…

There are three paper mills now specifically recycling paper cups, and thanks to the efforts of the PCRRG, a fourth is conducting trials. The combined capacity of these facilities is more than capable of recycling every single paper cup the UK consumes.

‘The whole business of paper cup recycling is a massive opportunity for vending to drive change.’

I hesitate to advise my colleagues to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’, but surely you’ll agree with me when I conclude that the whole business of paper cup recycling is a massive opportunity for vending to drive change and, in so doing, generate a massive surge of positive PR that will boost the image of the entire industry.

recyclingWhy? Because for vending, the potential to increase recovery and recycling rates is huge, because most of the environments we operate in are ‘closed loop’. There’s every chance that the used cup will remain on site, rather than going down the road in an in-car cup-holder. Offices, factories, municipal buildings; rail and air travel terminals; hospitals and institutions; stadia and leisure complexes: they’re all are the domain of vending operators. In these locations, it’s likely that waste management systems are already in place. It should be simple enough to tweak these arrangements to recover cups in a separated waste stream. Subsequently, those cups can easily be sent to specific facilities for recycling. Get it right and the entire process is cost neutral and environmentally sound.

What other industry has a similar set of circumstances?

It’s imperative that we drive home the advantage vending has over the High Street coffee shops when it comes to taking used cups out of landfill. How? By making certain that operators, facilities managers and contractors work together towards a shared objective.

Simples, as the annoying furry animal says in the ads.

Let’s capitalise on the potential. Let’s make 2018 the year in which the vending industry tackles the issue of paper cup recycling head on.

There are two companies out there now, collecting and processing vending cups – paper and plastic. Both Simply Cups and Options Management can be contacted through the AVA Cup Committee. The AVA and PCRRG will be doing their utmost to encourage, cajole and generally pester as many businesses as we can to get involved.

The AVA and PCCRG and its members – including representatives from across the supply chain – strongly believe that the solution to the paper cups crisis lies not in some ‘plucked-from-thin-air’ latté tax. Much better, much more effective, is to continue apace with the work we’ve already begun. That’s to say accelerating the delivery of a collection infrastructure (to feed cups to the paper mills); working with waste management companies to extract paper cups and creating a solution for paper cups that works across the supply chain.

Vending has a unique opportunity to lead the way, to show the world what can be done when there’s a bit of joined-up thinking at play. So come on! Let’s work together and make a real difference.

Adrian Pratt is Chair of the Automatic Vending Association (AVA) Cup Committee and Vice Chairman of the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG)

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About the author

The Editor

Planet Vending’s Editor is Ian Reynolds-Young and it’s Ian’s unique writing talent that has made PV what it is today – the best read (red) vending blog in the world, and vending’s best read (reed). Ian ‘tripped and fell into vending’, in the capacity of PR executive, before launching a specialist agency, ‘reynoldscopy’, dedicated to the UK Vending business. The company continues to represent the interests of many of the sector’s leading brands.

‘It’s all about telling stories’, he says. ‘We want to make every visit to PV a rewarding experience. By celebrating the achievements of the UK’s operating companies, we’re on a mission to debunk the idea that vending is retailing’s poor relation.’

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