Did you know that more than 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year in the UK?

recyclable cup cartoon

Most people mistakenly assume they are widely recycled. However, single use cups are lined with a waterproof plastic which can’t be removed. Although paper and plastic can be recycled separately, the way these materials are bonded to make coffee cups results in less than one in 400 being recycled.

Larger coffee chains are now sending cups collected in store to recycling facilities where the plastic lining can be removed from the paper and both materials recycled. Despite this improvement, many will be thrown away on the go or at home.

Jeff Coates, volunteer coordinator for the North Yorkshire Rotters, said: “One of the easiest ways to help to reduce the number of single use coffee cups being thrown away is switching to a reusable option. Some reusable cups are even made from recycled plastic and many high street coffee shops are incentivising this idea by offering a discount to people who bring a reusable cup.”

To help to tackle issues such as this and to inspire people to change their waste habits, the County Council coordinates a series of talks and activities at events, shows and schools across North Yorkshire supported by a team of dedicated volunteers known as the Rotters.

Pauline Percival has been a Rotter for 12 years and was one of the original volunteers.

“I’ve been involved with the Rotters right from the very beginning after seeing an advert in the newspaper. My parents got into recycling and reusing in the 1970s and passed it onto us as children, so I’ve just followed their path, really.

“I like talking to people. Most of the time they’ve got a bit of an interest and you can see when a light bulb goes on. Sometimes people come up to me at events and say they spoke to me the year before and that they’ve really changed their waste habits. It’s a lovely feeling, the passing on of that information and knowing you’re making a difference. That’s the biggest thing for me.”

For people who are passionate about environmental issues, being a Rotter is a great way to get involved with their community by raising awareness of the importance of home composting, promoting the Love Food Hate Waste campaign and encouraging people to reduce, reuse and recycle.

For younger people, being a Rotter is a good way to gain valuable skills and work experience. Rotters are not committed to give a specific number of hours each month and can choose which events they attend. Many members of the team volunteer elsewhere and a third combine being a Rotter with paid employment.

Rotters are provided with a volunteer uniform and training as well as ongoing support from a dedicated volunteer coordinator. People who are interested in joining the Rotters can fill in their details online, call 01609 797212 or send an email to nyrotters@northyorks.gov.uk.

This story was published 29 May 2018