LHR: Recycle, reuse and rid the airport of single-use coffee cups

London Heathrow Airport has announced it will significantly reduce and recycle all single-use coffee cups collected from over 20 retail and lounge business partners at the airport, as part of a longer-term vision to phase out single-use plastics.

The announcement follows a successful trial at Heathrow’s head office this Spring, where the obligatory introduction of a reusable coffee cup system will mean more than a quarter of a million single-use cups will no longer be used by the company.

The UK uses 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a year, yet it is estimated that only 0.25% are recycled. 78 million passengers currently pass through the airport annually, using over 13.5 million disposable coffee cups. These coffee cups represent an estimated 0.5% of all used in the UK. Recycling this amount could see the number of recycled cups in the UK increase by 200%. With passenger numbers continuing to rise, the need to tackle harmful single-use plastic across terminals cannot be ignored.

The airport has set a target to standardise and recycle all single-use coffee cups by the end of 2018 and continue efforts to completely rid staff areas of these cups. Dedicated coffee cup collection points will be rolled out across all terminals in coming weeks.

Heathrow’s Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye said: 

“As a small city, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and using all our influence to ensure individual companies working within our boundaries do so as well. This announcement takes us one step further, ensuring all single-use coffee cups at the airport are able to be recycled with additional support from Heathrow.

“For businesses, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee – join us in banning single-use coffee cups in your office today so that we can make a difference to tomorrow.”

The Sustainable Restaurant Association Founder and Director Simon Heppner, said:

“Our work with Heathrow and its food and beverage partners over the last few years has helped lay the foundations for a more collaborative approach to tackling the sustainability challenges we face. Today’s commitment to reduce and recycle single-use coffee cups builds on this collaboration and is a welcome interim step forward. We look forward to continuing to work with the airport and its partners to achieve this and to ensure focus is maintained on the bigger goals – not only today’s more ambitious commitment to phase out single-use cups entirely but also to take a critical look at all disposable products.”

At present, retailers offer varying types of coffee cups at the airport, making it more difficult to sort and reprocess than other materials. Heathrow is working with its retail partners to simplify the switch to a single recyclable cup which will be collected by the airport’s waste supplier, Grundon. Batches of recyclable cups will then be transferred in consolidated loads to national waste collectors, for recycling.

Heathrow is also looking at other ways to reduce consumption of single-use plastic products, such as bottles, stirrers and straws, as well as working with its retail partners to ensure reusable crockery is available for all sit-in restaurant customers.

With a vision to significantly reduce and remove single-use plastics, Heathrow is working closely with its retail partners to design, test and implement new systems to reduce waste, whilst still ensuring customers have a safe and enjoyable journey.

As a busy transport, retail and leisure hub, Heathrow is in a unique position to bring together multiple major companies to create a sustainable network that goes beyond the airport boundary.