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Coffee addicts: Reducing the environmental impact of your caffeine habit

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

Blog by Taylor & Jenna

Sustainable Merton Community Champions

The UK is coffee-obsessed, with over 95 million cups of coffee being consumed each day*. You can save a whole lot of £££ (and the planet), by following a few simple tips.


2.5 billion takeaway cups are used each year in the UK! One of the simplest ways to reduce your impact is to ditch single-use cups and bag yourself a stylish reusable one. High-street coffee houses such as Paul and Pret even offer 50p off your bill to customers who bring their own cup. With incentives like that, you could save a whopping £130 a year if you purchase coffee on-the-go 5 times a week. Head over to Ecoffee or your favourite local gift shop to pick up a reusable cup today.

❔ Did you know, you can use your reusable cup for cold drinks too! Many coffee shops also sell reusable cups specifically for cold drinks so you can waste less and save more.

Fact: Don’t put your disposable coffee cups in with the recycling!

The discrete plastic lining, which ensures the cups are waterproof, must be removed before they can be recycled. This means that fewer than 1 in 400 disposable coffee cups are recycled. However many high street coffee shops (such as Costa, Pret, Cafe Nero and McDonald's) have agreements with specialised recycling facilities and are happy to accept your used coffee cups. Head into your local coffee shop to see if they can recycle your cup today!

Cup contamination

Have you seen the new colourful recycling bins in Wimbledon town centre and The Village? Wimbledon #InTheLoop is making recycling on-the-go easier than ever. But disposable hot and cold drinks cups are still creating a bit of a mess when it comes to on-street recycling...

Putting any materials other than empty plastic bottles and cans (e.g. food, liquids or coffee cups) in these bins results in what we call ‘contamination’. This can mean that recycling plants are unable to accept materials and the whole lot can go to waste. Remember: only empty plastic bottles and cans in the yellow (recycling) side of the new bins, please. Cheers!

If you have recyclable items that are not plastic bottles and cans, including cold drinks cups, we recommend holding on to them and recycling them when you get home (don't forget to rinse them out first).

Find out more at

What’s your tipple?

Whether it’s for health, lactose intolerance, or sustainability reasons, many of us are choosing to go dairy-free. Dairy milk production (per glass) results in up to three times the greenhouse gas emissions** as a non-dairy alternative. In the UK, our most sustainable options are Organic Oat milk and Hemp, with Soya milk coming in third.

But as anyone who is non-dairy will know, the one area that plant-based drinks can hit hardest is your pocket, with many coffee houses charging extra for the privilege. But there is a way to save! Pret has been the first chain to abolish the extra charge on their selection of alternatives, while others - including the local folks at Coffee in the Wood (Colliers Wood) - offer soya milk for FREE in their beverages.

Home brew

One of the biggest waste products in the coffee world comes from single-use coffee pods, so keep your eyes peeled for biodegradable options and coffee house recycling schemes (ask in-store), or go for beans instead. Beans can be purchased loose at local zero waste stores like Zéro, (Wimbledon) who also offer an on-site grinder for customer use. And who doesn’t love the smell of freshly ground coffee in the morning? As for those left-over grounds, they can be used to create homemade body scrubs, or for fertilizing plants in your garden. Finally, any leftovers can be added to your food waste caddy and collected by Merton Council.

Local Spotlight: Metronome

If accessibility and sustainability are must-haves when choosing your coffee spot, check out new kids on the block: Metronome. Situated just 100m from Morden station, their ingredients are responsibly (and locally) sourced and they have a zero waste-to-landfill policy. The shop itself is step-free, with an accessible toilet, and their team have received community training from Dementia Hub & Autism UK. This lovely bunch are eager to provide an affordable and inclusive experience while remaining committed to their eco-values. They are also a Refill Station where you can refill your reusable water bottle for FREE.



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