Design Council were pleased to see the published report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee highlighting the need for urgent measures to be taken to effectivly and in an environmentally beneficial way dispose of the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups discarded each year across the UK.

We further welcome the call for a 25p levy to be applied to each cup to help counter the issue of throw away cups, as the 5p levy on plastic bags has found the numbers discarded each year to have dropped by approximately 80% since the levy was introduced in 2015. At that time, the UK handed out approximately 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags to customers, contributing to nearly 61,000 tonnes of plastic waste.

While we agree a levy would help educate and inform customers of the issue of throw away coffee cups, we don’t believe this will eradicate the problem completely. What we need is a solution that is not only able to deliver the coffee or hot drink that the consumer wants but is fully and naturally biodegradable. This is an area ripe for design and innovation and through Design Council’s work with start-up businesses, we have seen many more entrepreneurs coming forward with ideas that both improve people’s lives as well as the planet.

The Design Council Spark programme was established to help bring great innovations from initial concept to market. Many people have groundbreaking ideas for products that could solve everyday problems, but struggle to translate an early stage concept into a workable commercially viable solution.

The programme has been running successfully for four years to date and has fast-tracked the development of products that will benefit not only the thousands of people affected by arthritis but will also deliver ingenious products for the markets more broadly, such as versatile and easily transportable home furniture, cycle safety products, pain-free injections for diabetes sufferers and solutions to aid the visually impaired.

One team Design Council Spark was keen to assist were the developers of ‘Camcup’, which is a cup made using the waste produced by spent coffee grounds. The inventors of this ingenious product have found a way to reduce carbon emissions, recycle waste, and produce a product that is more affordable to manufacture.

“We were excited and pleased to be a part of the Design Council Spark programme as it helped us address issues around the waste streams created by the coffee industry. The programme has supported us in developing and designing a re-useable coffee cup made from used coffee. The applications of our product are even broader than this, as the programme has helped us to further develop physical boards that may be used in the development of buildings/furniture which is again produced using re-cycled disposable coffee cups” says Gareth Roberts of Camcup.

Design Council Spark finalists Gareth Roberts and Xiaobin Zhao of CamCup

Design Council Spark finalists Gareth Roberts and Xiaobin Zhao of CamCup

Design Council believes that while a levy is a good start, we should be looking to catalyse many more design-led innovations, such as Camcup, to eradicate the issue of waste created by products such as disposable coffee cups across the UK and transform markets.

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News & opinion

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