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Scientists have come up with a way to transform coffee cups into furniture

Alexandra Sims

It’s tricky for a city like London to clean up its act, but little ideas can lead to big changes. Meet the company turning coffee cups into furniture

Why coffee cups?

Newsflash! London is a city of coffee addicts. Between us we gulp down most of the 7 million mugs drunk daily in Britain. Unfortunately we’re playing fast and loose with the cups we slurp it all from: less than 1 percent of the 3 billion paper cups thrown away each year are recycled. 

Why so few? 

The plastic-and-paper make-up of disposable cups means they are extremely difficult to break down. Enter the project team of Professor Edward Kosior and Dr Jon Mitchell. They’ve concocted a resin, called NextCupCycle, which combines the layers into a strong material that can be moulded into everything from trays to clocks, notepads and picnic benches. 

Brilliant! How is it being used?

The process has been taken up by Simply Cups, the country’s only coffee-cup recycling service. One of the problems they face is that used cups are extremely hard to collect. Most of us throw our cups away after leaving coffee shops and even then we don’t separate the plastic lid from the cup itself and pour out the excess liquid first.

Any solutions to that problem?

Well, it’s only a start, but earlier this year 100 yellow, coffee-cup-shaped bins were placed around the City and at Liverpool Street station. In just one month they collected a mammoth 509,091 cups, all of which will now be recycled into something new. Time for a flat white…

Illustrations: Dan Woodger

Find out more about the project here

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