Innovate Blog
Square Mile Challenge choir
Bunzl Catering Supplies joins with industry partners to pioneer the Square Mile Challenge in London

Tuesday May 16, 2017

In April 2017 Bunzl Catering Supplies joined with key supply chain partners and leading retailers to launch the Square Mile Challenge at London’s Liverpool Street Station and The Royal Exchange, with the full support of the City of London Corporation.

The initiative was organised by charity Hubbub, in partnership with Simply Cups, of which Bunzl Catering Supplies is a founding member, to bring a clear and simple message to consumers about the importance of paper cup recycling. The day featured Hubbub’s Coffee Cup Choir, bright yellow recycling bins, informative signage, social media activity and a giant Perspex cube housing an installation made from thousands of coffee cups.

The Square Mile Challenge, the UK’s highest-profile coffee cup recycling initiative to date, aimed to recruit businesses and consumers to work together to recover and recycle half a million coffee cups within one month. Within two weeks of the event, Simply Cups had collected over 270,000 paper cups from 25 new recycling outlets and 38 businesses with over 500 employees.

Going beyond recycling

The initiative goes beyond recycling by establishing a ‘closed loop’ for all recovered coffee cups, giving them a second life as products, which supports the City of London’s efforts to ‘green’ the city. Once collected the cups will be sent to a specialist recycling facility to be transformed into a special resin. This will be used to create new products, such as pencils or park benches, to be donated to schools and community groups in the area.

Simply Cups is the UK’s only collection and recycling service dedicated to turning paper and plastic cups into second-life materials. As part of our commitment to providing customers with solutions for wasting less and recycling more, Bunzl Catering Supplies became a Founder member of the Simply Cups scheme in 2015.

The Square Mile – London’s financial district, contains the highest concentration of office workers in the UK. London Liverpool Street Station, at the heart of the Square Mile, was chosen because of the 300,000 commuters who pass through it each day, enabling the event to maximise consumer awareness, explains Joanna Gilroy, Head of Sustainability for Bunzl Catering Supplies.

Gilroy adds, “The day was a real buzz; with the aim being to make coffee cup recycling available to all. Most people want to do the right thing, and they were very inquisitive and spent time reading the signage. Many were very positive and wanted to know more, not realising they could recycle their coffee cups separately. It’s really important that this campaign now grows to other cities.”

Robin Maxwell, National Accounts Director, Bunzl Catering Supplies, comments, “Every day in the UK, over seven million cups are disposed of. Less than 1% of those are currently recycled. There is definitely confusion around how and whether you can recycle coffee cups”.

Cross-industry support

One of the most inspiring aspects of the campaign is that the funding comes from supporters from across the entire paper coffee cup supply chain: from manufacturers and distributors to retailers and waste management providers. This collaborative approach is fundamental to the success of the initiative and showcases the industry’s joint commitment to solving the problem of paper cup waste management.

To support this fantastic initiative, Bunzl Catering Supplies has developed a match funding partnership with our suppliers Huhtamaki, Dart Products Europe, Seda and Benders Paper Cups. Funding and support has also been provided by some of our key customers including Costa Coffee and Starbucks. Funding is an essential part of bringing this project for disposable cup recycling to The Square Mile.

Joanna Gilroy comments, “This kind of campaign hasn’t been done before, and was able to give visibility for the first time to the tremendous supply chain, that sits behind the coffee cup retailers, which has done a lot of work to reduce waste and recycle paper off-cuts.”

Following the Square Mile Challenge, the project aims to recover a further five million used disposable cups by the end of 2017. Businesses that would like to get involved in paper cup recycling are advised to contact Simply Cups.


To join the challenge or learn more, take a look at the Hubbub website.

To watch our Square Mile Challenge launch day video click here.