Back to news
15 March 2022 Press Release

DEFRA Publishes Paper Cups Report

The DEFRA Report on Paper Cups has been published on the WRAP website. It comes in at a 311 pages but with no press announcements. It has been placed in the reports section of the WRAP website, which claims the report was published on 17 February, yet the FPA was only informed of its existence by Defra on 7 March, and then only following a flurry of emails over the last six months. Indeed, the report doesn’t make it to the Defra website. Odd because the report not only sets out some numbers, but also gives 'options for managing these items to help reduce environmental impact, and... includes an assessment of potential policy measures’.

The report estimates the number of fibre-composite cups in 2019 at 3.2 billion with a total weight of 35,300 tonnes, value of £257 million and recycling rate of 2.8%. It is estimated one million plastic cups are used annually with a total weight of 7,000 tonnes. The volume of fibre-composite food packaging is estimated at 3.2 billion units with a total weight of 30,000 tonnes, again lower than the industry estimate.

The report highlights there is enough recycling infrastructure to recycle all fibre-composite, PET and PP cups placed on the market in the UK. The FPA always maintained this and now it is official. The report says: 'Using data held by the National Cup Recycling Scheme, it is estimated that there are over 6,300 fibre-composite cup collection points across the UK with a minimum capacity of 1.6 million fibre-composite cups. For plastic cups it is estimated that there are at least 5,000 recycling points in the UK with a minimum capacity of 1.1 million cups.' The report also identified 54 mostly voluntary initiatives for managing single use cups and fibre-composite food packaging.

The report goes on to analyse six key policies for managing cups both individually and in combination.  The FPA is analysing this carefully as it appears this report is designed to act as the impact assessment for any future actions.

Of the measures, the report states: 'Implementing mandatory takeback or recycling rate targets reduces fibre-composite cups waste management costs less materials value by more than they reduce benefits, ie the impact of implementing these policies (separately) has overall positive net benefits', and 'Separately implementing charges, bans or an EPR approach for fibre-composite cups has overall negative net benefits because of the impacts on benefits from displacing usage of the cups with reusable alternatives, which outweighs the reduction in waste management costs less materials values in these policy scenarios.'

This is confirmation that mandatory takeback of paper cups by all retailers has a greater impact than charges.


Ends                                                                                                                        11 March 2022


Issued on behalf of the Foodservice Packaging Association by Leapfrog PR. Editorial contact is Felicity Read on 07887 608353 or email