Lifting The Lid

Birmingham Airport have boosted their sustainability credentials with the introduction of coffee cup and coffee grounds recycling.

Back at the end of 2019 when the word “Corona” would make you think about beer instead of a virus, we were working on a project with Birmingham Airport to tackle the segregation and processing of coffee cups.

Working closely with First Mile, we trialled the collection of coffee cups and coffee grounds which are recycled rather than being treated as general waste which is sent for energy recovery. This latest initiative will further support the airport in the delivery of its Sustainability Strategy to tackle climate change.

Following a successful trial period, the scheme has now been implemented across the airport, meaning over 12.6M passengers every year will have access to more than 20 coffee cup bins strategically located across both the landside and airside areas.

During the first four weeks of the trial, more than 2,600kg of coffee grounds and circa 30,000 used coffee cups were collected for recycling.  The coffee ground collections alone equated to 30 bathtubs-full and would save one tonne of CO2e in one year.  Recycling the paper from the used coffee cups saved 8.1 litres of water, 1,020kWh of energy, and would save four trees that can potentially absorb over 170kgs of CO2e from the air.

When airport visitor numbers return to pre-covid levels we believe that the new scheme will see around 39 tonnes of used coffee grounds (saving 164 tonnes of CO2e) and circa 300,000 coffee cups (saving 1.7 tonnes of CO2e) will be collected & recycled every year. The coffee grounds will be collected from hospitality businesses throughout the airport, and new coffee cup recycling bins have been installed in outlets and in general areas to make it easy for airport visitors to recycle their used coffee cups.

Once collected by First Mile, coffee grounds will be transformed into biofuels and essential oils by coffee recycling specialist, Bio-bean, and coffee cups will be given a new life as new papers and packaging at the James Cropper paper mill.

Darren Andrew, Corporate Account Manager added: “We believe that Birmingham Airport might just be the first UK airport to introduce both coffee cup and coffee grounds recycling. This is another important step in our commitment to developing an increasingly sustainable environment for the airports visitors and employees.”