Glasgow could recycle almost half of the 95 million single-use coffee and drinks cups it throws away each year if a pioneering campaign launching today is a success.
The new drive, which is the first of its kind in Scotland, will see a collection service set up where cups can be deposited and bagged at galleries, museums, offices and cafés across the city.
Coffee chains and businesses will be invited to buy-in to the scheme to enhance their green credentials, with customers encouraged to drink from reusable cups and dispose of waste at collection points.
People will also be able to deposit cups at participating retailers and premises regardless of where they bought the drinks. The scheme, called the Cup Movement could be rolled out to other areas if it works.
According to current estimates, only 4 per cent of Scotland’s 500 million single-use cups are recycled every year.
Derek Robertson, chief executive of the environment charity Keep Scotland Beautiful, said the scheme would make Glasgow the “Pied Piper” of cup recycling.
“We hope to encourage the public to understand that cups can be recycled,” he told i.
“If we can get them collected and recycled it means they will not be going to landfill. Meanwhile we want the public to think about more sustainable choices such as using reusable cups.”
The charity is working with an Australian waste collection service Simply Cups to collect the cups, bale them at a plant in Kilsyth and transport them to a recycling centre in England.
The lack of a collection system has remained a barrier to effective recycling until now. Single-use cups need to be separated because their plastic coating can not be processed at conventional plants.
Mr Robertson said it was feasible that Glasgow could recycle 40 million cups if enough businesses came on board.
“This will require a whole-city collaboration – something that we are about to try and pull together with the help of the national brands,” he added.
Glasgow City Council is one of the first organisations to come on board.
Councillor Anna Richardson said: “We are already incentivising the use of reusable cups at our council facilities and we also want to work closely with businesses, third sector groups and other organisations to deliver actions that make a real difference. Simply throwing away a disposable cup is a waste of resources.
“By helping to change the culture around how we consume our drinks, substantial benefits are in reach.”
Both the Scottish and UK governments have been under pressure to impose levies on single-use cups, on top of existing measures to cut down on the use of disposable plastics.
Last year the Scottish Government announced plans to outlaw the sale and manufacture of single-use plastic-stemmed cotton buds and banned plastic straws in its own cafés, bars and canteens.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said single-use coffee cups were also no longer available in the Scottish Government’s main buildings. “I’m sure the people of Glasgow will get behind the movement with equal passion,” she added.