‘Up for the Cup’ – How the University of Northampton won the Best Waste Reduction at the 2021 iiE awards
“Up for The Cup” is a ground-breaking partnership project which targets the collection of single use hot beverage cups to encourage paper cup recycling across Northampton. The project is led by the University of Northampton with participation from Northampton General Hospital, Northampton Railway Station, Northampton Students’ Union, the Royal and Derngate Theatre, the Grosvenor Shopping Centre and Delapre Abbey, who each host a number of specially designed cup recycling bins across their sites, and the Northamptonshire Waste Partnership who provide the collection service. The scheme was supported by Hubbub’s ‘The Cup Fund’ and Starbucks, using money raised through their 5p cup charge.
The University’s involvement with the scheme set them apart at the 2021 iiE awards, where the judges felt the University was in a key position to help influence a wide range of stakeholders and partners through their waste reduction schemes and should be applauded for their efforts.
How did they do it?
The University joined forces with six other Northampton based Official Partners, which was key to the project being awarded £75,000, to collect and recycle 160,000 cups across the town. The project was launched in January 2020, and despite several venues being closed during the pandemic lock-downs, 60,000 cups were collected in the first 18 months.
Recycling paper cups is challenging; they need to be captured separately to other waste, so that the plastic lining can be separated from the paper outer of the cup before the recycling can take place. To avoid contamination (which would prevent recycling), liquid and lids must be removed before the cups are placed in the recycling bin.
To encourage correct behaviours, the bins are eye catching and innovatively designed, and ‘sip and separate’ is a key message of the project’s awareness campaign. Communications also aim to address the “myth” that paper cups can be recycled with paper or through mixed recycling household collections.
The project uses the project partners’ established communication channels, with Digital Marketing students from the University defining awareness social media campaigns specific to the audience / consumers of each partner.
By using the specialist cup recycling bins and targeted communications, the ‘Up for the Cup’ project diverted over 60,000 paper cups from the general waste stream in its first eighteen months. The cups were then recycled and made into new products, rather than being landfilled or burnt to create energy.
The scheme has been highly effective at diverting cups from landfill, with councillor Tim Allebone, Chairman of the Northamptonshire Waste Partnership, stating:
“The Northamptonshire Waste Partnership is delighted to be involved in the ‘Up for the Cup’ recycling project in Northampton. An estimated 8.5 million disposal coffee cups are used in the town every year, the vast majority of which are not currently recycled.
Through this project we are aiming to recycle 160,000 cups – that’s enough coffee cups stacked end to end for 138 Northampton lift towers – and will be recycled into paper and plastic, ready to be used again to produce new cups.
We are working alongside our partners to provide bins and collection facilities so that those who live, work and study in Northampton to easily recycle their disposable cups.”