UK bans single-use plastics: How will it affect coffee shops & takeaway orders?

Hayley Osbourne
March 3, 2023
An image of a barista handing a customer coffee in a plastic, single-use takeaway coffee cups in an article on how coffee shops will cope with the UK ban on single-use plastics and sustainable takeaway coffee cups options.

From October 2023, the UK will be added to a growing list of countries that are phasing out single-use plastics.

The country will face a ban on items such as single-use plastic plates, bowls, and cutlery, as well as certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers.

According to estimates from the GOV UK website, the UK uses an estimated 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery – most of which are plastic. Additionally, the country uses around 721 million single-use plates per year, with only 10% being recycled.

If each of those 2.7 billion pieces of cutlery were 15 cm in length and placed end to end, they would circle the globe almost nine times.

As plastic can take anywhere between 20 and 500 years to break down, it is clear drastic measures must be taken to reduce plastic waste.

Read on to learn how the UK’s ban on single-use plastics will affect how coffee shops cater to takeaway orders.

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What does a ban on single-use plastics mean for coffee businesses?

It is important to note that the UK ban on single-use plastics is yet to encompass plates, trays, and bowls used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items.

These items will likely be included in the government’s plans for an Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme. The scheme aims to incentivise producers to use recyclable packaging and meet higher recycling targets.

Furthermore, the European Union has already taken steps to counteract plastic waste. Since July 2021, a ban has been placed on single-use plastic plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds on the markets of EU Member States.

As takeaway options are extremely beneficial for coffee businesses, these bans mean coffee businesses will have to alter their packaging solutions.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, takeaway and delivery coffee offerings allowed many businesses to remain open.

However, even before the pandemic takeaway coffee has been a popular option for many consumers due to its convenience.  

According to a report from Take Out Coffee Market, the global takeaway coffee market was worth $37.8 billion in 2022.

An image of a coffee consumer holding two cups of takeaway coffee in recyclable cardboard custom printed takeaway coffee cups in a recyclable cardboard cup tray in an article on how coffee shops will cope with the UK ban on single-use plastics and sustainable takeaway coffee cup options.

Takeaway cups as a form of branding

As well as creating another revenue stream, takeaway coffee allows companies to increase brand exposure.

Several coffee shops choose to custom print brand names and logos on takeaway cups and food containers. This could help further their income even more by creating an influx of new customers.

While a ban on single-use plastic is restrictive to many coffee businesses, it is not a ban on takeaway coffee.

Several recent studies show consumers are prioritising sustainable practices, as well as the use of recyclable packaging and takeaway cups.

More so, a 2020 study found 79% of consumers are likely to change brands based on the sustainability and environmental impact of their purchases.

Notably, 77% of companies that have switched to sustainable alternatives note increased customer loyalty, while 63% have seen a rise in revenue.

An image of a kraft paper takeaway coffee cups willed with sustainable bamboo fibre cutlery and plates in an article on how coffee shops will cope with the UK ban on single-use plastics and sustainable takeaway coffee cup options.

Sustainable alternatives to single-use takeaway cups

Over the years, several sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics have become readily available.

Renewable materials, such as kraft paper, bamboo fibre, and polylactic acid (PLA) have become more common in the packaging industry.

More so, these materials are popular in the coffee industry, as they are used to make coffee bags and takeaway cups.

For instance, PLA is made from the fermentation of carbohydrates from renewable resources such as maize, cornstarch, and sugarcane. The fermentation produces resin filaments that have similar characteristics to petroleum-based plastic. 

The filaments can be shaped, moulded, and coloured to suit a range of needs, such as coffee packaging and takeaway cups. 

In controlled composting environments, PLA-based products can take as little as 90 days to decompose, in contrast to a 1,000 years for conventional plastics.

Another compostable option is kraft paper cups. These often have double wall insulation and are made with recyclable paper and an environmentally friendly PLA lining to prevent leaks.

In the last few years, cups and cutlery made from bamboo fibre have increased in popularity, with the market estimated to be worth $12.4 billion by the year 2023.

Bamboo fibre is used not only for takeaway coffee cups and single-use utensils but also for fast food containers.

Most bamboo products are made using bamboo pulp. 

Pulp refers to a soft, wet, and shapeless mass of material that is typically used in the manufacturing of paper and other paper products. Traditionally, it is made by breaking down the cellulose fibres of plants. 

The bamboo pulp is then washed and screened to remove any crude residue, dust, and sand

As one of the fastest-growing plants, bamboo is an eco-friendly, biodegradable material that decomposes within 4 to 6 months in a compost heap.

Switching to sustainable takeaway coffee cups and coffee bags is an effective way to adjust to plastic bans. 

At MTPak Coffee, we can provide roasters and cafe owners with sustainable takeaway coffee cups made from renewable materials such as recycled kraft paper with an environmentally-friendly PLA lining.

Strong and lightweight, our range of cups is the ideal choice for roasters and coffee shops looking to reduce the impact on the environment and communicate their commitment towards sustainability.

Our range includes double or single wall cups, compostable takeaway coffee cups, as well as coffee cup sleeves.

Our recyclable takeaway coffee cups are available in five different sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, and 24 oz.

We can also help you fully customise your takeaway coffee cups or coffee cup sleeves with details of your business, allowing you to communicate the cup’s recycling qualities to customers.

We only use innovative and eco-friendly digital printing technology with sustainable, water-based inks that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

This means that while they are highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat, they are also compostable and easy to remove for recycling.

Furthermore, we offer a range of low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options, allowing you to order as little as 500 fully customised units in just five working days.

For more information on sustainable takeaway coffee cups, contact our team.

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