“It has taken years of research and development to source a fully bio-compostable coffee cup and lid."
UK coffee chain AMT Coffee has announced that it has unveiled disposable cups that it claims are “100% bio-compostable”. The sugarcane-based cups, released during the festive period, have been imprinted with the message: ‘Let’s make the change’, alluding to the fight against single-use plastic.
AMT Coffee, which has more than 50 stores across UK railway stations, has claimed that both its cup and lid can break down at room temperature and decompose fully within one year.
The UK throws away 2.5 billion paper coffee cups every year, with just one in 400 estimated to be recycled. The majority of those are sold by high street coffee chains.
Conventional coffee cups are particularly hard to recycle because they contain a paper exterior with a plastic lining to keep the cup sealed. Consequently, almost all of them are incinerated, exported or sent to landfill.
“It has taken years of research and development to source a fully bio-compostable coffee cup and lid,” Alistair McCallum-Toppin, a Founder and Managing Director of AMT Coffee (@AMTCoffee), said. “Thanks to new green-focused technology and our demand for change, we are delighted to introduce our new 100% bio-compostable coffee cups and lids across all AMT Coffee bars.”
He said the packaging was made from 100% plant-based natural material – sugarcane waste.
He added the company was pleased to "be the first coffee chain" in the UK to implement the change, hoping to promote "the importance of making the change for our blue planet."
McCallum-Toppin said that he hoped that the company’s message was “heard loud and clear this Christmas and the New Year by both our customers and competitors, who would have a far bigger impact than we will, if they help us make the change”.
Environmental campaigners gave the cups a lukewarm response. Julian Kirby (@julian_kirby), plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told Bio-Based World News: "It's great that firms are listening to customers and making efforts to find alternatives to disposable cups, bags and packaging - but just because a product can be composted, it doesn't mean it actually will be.
"Not everyone has access to a home-composting facility, and local authority waste collection schemes may not be geared up to accept compostable packaging - so they could end up being incinerated."
Kirby said that refillable cups were a "far better option" and that the UK government should do more to encourage this by "including the introduction of a latte levy".
He also said that the government needed to introduce a comprehensive plan to end plastic pollution across the board.
Separately, Lucy Frankel, communications director at UK-based compostable packaging manufacturer Vegware (@vegware), said Vegware welcomed AMT Coffee's steps to introduce bio-based materials for its takeaway coffee cups.
However, she added: "Rather than 'biocompostable', we would recommend using the terms 'compostable' and 'bio-based for clarity, and to distinguish from oxo-degradable plastics being marketed as 'biodegradable'."
A spokeswoman for AMT Coffee told the Evening Standard that AMT cups were still biodegradable even if “perfect conditions” were not met.
AMT Coffee Christmas cups are not the only festive cups that have been recently criticised. Last week, coffee chain Starbucks was slammed for promoting its festive red cups, which can only be recycled at specific paper cup recycling points.
For Sustainable living specialist, Jen Gale ( @sustainableish ), said the launch of the cups bought little festive cheer. She told Bio-Based World News: "I really don’t understand all the excitement around Starbuck’s special Christmas red cups - a disposable cup is still a disposable cup, no matter how jolly and festive it looks. It’s still nigh on impossible to recycle and will sit in landfill (looking all jolly and festive) for years to come."
Download: Bio-Based World Quarterly issue #11