Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is continuing his war on waste by taking to the streets of London in a battle bus emblazoned with coffee cups, created with the help of students from Central Saint Martins.
An incredible 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away in the UK every year – that's 7 million per day, or almost 5,000 each minute. According to the TV presenter and chef, the stunt on March 14th highlights that less than 6 million of these cups – 0.25 per cent of the total – are recycled.
He is tackling big coffee players Costa and Starbucks particularly, as they both have 'misleading messages' about their cups' recyclability, he says. A standard high-street coffee cup is more difficult to recycle than it might first appear, he says.
"The truth is they are barely recyclable at all – in the everyday, commonly understood sense of the word. They cannot be recycled through any of the normal public waste collection services – who are consistently diverting them to be incinerated or sent to landfill," says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
"The coffee companies are taking advantage of the public's false confidence in their responsible actions. They are actively encouraging the misunderstanding, with claims and statements on their websites. And two biggest, Costa and Starbucks, seem to be the worst culprits."
There is only one specialist cup recycling facility in the UK, Simply Cups in Cumbria, which recycles some cups from Costa and McDonald's. However, this is an espresso drop in the latte ocean.
"Costa claims to have 'the most environmentally friendly coffee cup in the world. But they do not explain on what basis they make this claim," says the River Cottage foodie. "In a recent email to me personally they even say their cups are already '100 per cent recyclable'. They do send some cups to Simply Cups – but our calculations suggest it's less than one per cent of all Costa paper cups.
"I openly invite Costa to prove they are doing better than that. I believe they are using a tiny commitment to Simply Cups to justify statements that are basically greenwash.
"Meanwhile, Starbucks claim on their website that they are 'on track' with their goal to 'make 100 per cent of our cups reusable or recyclable by 2015'. As things stand, Starbucks are not yet a client of Simply Cups! So unless they have a 'secret facility', they are not currently able to recycle any of their cups in the UK. I challenge Starbucks to prove that they recycled a single coffee cup in the UK in 2015."
Fearnley-Whittingstall states that Costa has declined a filmed interview for the forthcoming series of Hugh's War on Waste on BBC One, while Starbucks have agreed in principle, but have yet to confirm a date.