Celebrity chef and environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall returned to the BBC last week (28 July) for an hour-long programme documenting his War on Waste.
Over recent months a debate has been raging about the recyclability of disposable paper coffee cups after Fearnley-Whittingstall took to the streets of London in March to highlight the fact that 2.5 billion such cups are thrown away in the UK every year, of which only about six million are recycled in specialist recycling facilities.
As part of last week’s programme, Fearnley-Whittingstall talked to experts to find out why these coffee cups are so hard to recycle. Because the product needs to be waterproof, manufacturers combine the paper structure with a plastic interior coating and then add further waterproofing chemicals. These two layers are so tightly bound together that they can only be separated and recycled at specialist facilities, of which only one currently operates in the UK. This means that cups included with a paper recycling stream will not be processed.
Another aspect of Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign was that several of the large high street coffee chains are misleading in their promotion of their cups, stating in several cases that they are ‘widely recyclable’ and including misleading labelling on the cups themselves. The chef asked the public to put pressure on the large chains to make improvements and fund research into a more sustainable solution.
BBIA member Vegware has been working with Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage to provide a sustainable solution to disposable catering products by using food and drinks containers that can be thrown away with food waste and used to create compost.