What might Extended Producer Responsibility mean for paper cup producers?

Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging is on the horizon, but what does this mean for businesses that sell drinks in paper cups? National Cup Recycling Manager, Samantha Ward, outlines the Government's proposals and how your business may be affected.

Prior to 24 March 2021 your biggest concern was probably when you would be able to reopen your business. Over the previous two months, Government has published three consultations, the first on Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging, the second on Deposit Return Schemes and the third on Consistent Collections, which together will result in the largest reform of the UK’s Packaging Waste Regulations since 1997.


By now you may well have had to explain to stakeholders that costs for recovering and recycling your packaging are going to increase significantly, but have you considered what you may need to do if you sell drinks in paper cups? Read on to find out more about the Government’s proposals for paper cups and how you may be affected.

Mandatory takeback of paper cups

Government is proposing to introduce a mandatory takeback obligation on sellers of filled disposable paper cups. For clarity, the Impact Assessment defines paper cups as “disposable paper cups for hot drinks (tea and coffee) and cold drinks (milkshakes)”. The obligation would require businesses selling filled cups to provide in-store recycling points and arrange separate collection and recycling of paper cups irrespective of brand or where purchased.

The consultation sets out that, if implemented, larger sellers would be required to meet the obligation by the end of 2023, extending to all sellers by the end of 2025 with a potential exemption for small and micro businesses. It would be up to the obligated seller as to how they choose to meet the obligation. In addition to the mandatory takeback obligation, Government is also intending to announce a recycling target for fibre based composite packaging from 2026, which would include disposable fibre-based cups.

What is the National Cup Recycling Scheme?

The National Cup Recycling Scheme is a voluntary initiative which brings together producers, waste collectors and reprocessors, all with the shared aim of growing the infrastructure needed to increase the number of paper cups being recycled in the UK.

Valpak is administrator for the Scheme and will be responding to the EPR Consultation on behalf of its eight member signatories: Costa Coffee, McDonald’s, Pret A Manger, Caffè Nero, Greggs, Burger King, Pure and Lavazza Professional.

Scheme members welcome Government’s aspiration to build on the success of the voluntary scheme and the retailer’s willingness to take on cup recycling initiatives. The obligation would put all sellers on a level playing field and increase the existing number of paper cup recycling points available to consumers. Scheme members advise that the obligation should equally apply to all sellers from the outset, to alleviate confusion among consumers surrounding paper cup recycling.

What will you need to do?

If the mandatory takeback obligation is implemented, you will need to install separate paper cup recycling bins in-store and arrange for the collection and recycling of these paper cups, as well as report on the cup volumes managed through your arrangements.

There are several ways you can choose to meet this obligation, for example, by making your own arrangements, or joining an existing scheme such as the National Cup Recycling Scheme.

The National Cup Recycling Scheme has over three years’ experience of paper cup recycling and a dedicated Scheme manager. New members are welcome to join at any time. With the UK’s thirst for convenient coffee not going anywhere anytime soon, collaboration will be key to increasing the number of paper cups recycled in the UK.

Join the National Cup Recycling Scheme

If you would like to discuss joining the National Cup Recycling Scheme please email, [email protected]