Chiltern Railways pilots recycling of coffee cups

Everyone needs to take responsibility; the reality is that everyone has been getting away with it for a long time. — Peter Goodwin, Simply Cups co-founder

Chiltern Railways is to introduce a scheme to recycle coffee cups at its stations.

Each station will have bins to deposit the cups, which are then taken away to be recycled, except the passengers have to segregate liquid, lids and cups, three separate bins.

An estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK. Anything that addresses this is to be welcome.

What appears to be paper cups are plastic-lined cups, and there lies the problem, these cups cannot be recycled and therein lies the problem.

At first glance the scheme looks good but does not stand up to close scrutiny.

The Chiltern Railways scheme is at best a distraction, at worst legitimises our throwaway consumerist culture.

If nothing else, it makes the point, plastic is not recycled, cf steel, glass, aluminium, it is down-cycled, the plastic to be turned into branded pens for Chiltern Railways.

In the natural world output from one process is the input to another. There is no accumulation of waste either in time or space.

Ancient woodlands are the perfect example.

Anything that forms closed loops, where waste from one system is input to another is to be welcome, but that is not the case with plastic.

The loop is not closed, all that has happened is a delay, the plastic has been down-cycled, then onward to a one way trip to landfill, incineration or the ocean.

Plastic is a modern day curse. The planet is being smothered in plastic, plastic pollution is killing our marine life.

From where do the passengers obtain their coffee?

A reasonable assumption, either on the train or a takeaway stall at a station somewhere en route.

Make it mandatory, a condition of the lease,  for any of these coffee outlets that takeaway cups have to be compostable, that they have on sale reusable cups for example KeepCup and offer a substantial discount if seeking a refill.

At the station, a bin for compostable waste or at rural stations a compost heap. Though there is a question mark on whether or not these compostable cups do actually compost on a compost heap.

On a different line, an example would be Alton Station, where volunteers maintain a station garden.

The introduction of a 25p latte levy will help to focus minds.

Whilst not applicable to rail passengers, we must end the grab it and go culture, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served on glass or ceramic.

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