London is fuelled by coffee, but our habit also produces a lot of waste. Happily, some companies are trying to change that.

In 2015, Britons drank 2,098 billion cups of coffee away from home — that’s two and a half cups for every cup of tea. Cappuccinos are the most popular, followed by lattes, then the good old americano. It’s clear: we’re no longer partial to any kind of brew, we’re coffee connoisseurs.

The cup of coffee that’s probably on your desk right now is testament to the bean’s ability to wake you up, keep you alert, help with weight loss and even, as a recent study in the Netherlands revealed, improve your liver’s health.

London Bridge’s Club Workspace provides its members with coffee from Pact Coffee — a delivery service based at The Biscuit Factory – where it roasts its beans, too. The coffee specialists work directly with producers so they know where their magic beans come from: whether it’s Fazenda Chapada, a Brazilian bean with hints of milk-chocolate toffee, or the Guatemalan Filadelfia Natural, that’ll bring to mind strawberries and cream.

Livewire Kitchen, the cafe at Vox Studios in Vauxhall, roasts its beans at Beanworks, a modern artisan roaster based in Northamptonshire. After testing more than 30 types of roast, the company settled on two types of coffee: one a single bean, the other a blend of Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Indian and Brazilian beans. A wholesale coffee and machine supplier, Beanworks trains staff, taking them from novices to expert baristas, and instructing them in the craft of latte art.

“There are still a lot of latte drinkers out there,” says Zoe Watkins, Co-founder at Livewire Kitchen. “But newer drinks like the ‘piccolo’ are also gaining popularity.” In case you didn’t know, that’s a single espresso shot topped up with steamed milk in a demitasse glass. And with around 150-200 cups sold per day, that’s a lot of coffee.

What’s on the menu at LiveWire Kitchen?

However, there is a dark side to Britain’s caffeine addiction: the UK produces half a million tonnes of waste from coffee grounds each year. Thankfully, there are people who are looking to turn that into an opportunity. Bio-bean is an innovative London company that transforms waste ground coffee into fuel pellets that are used to heat buildings. A bigger beast, Nestlé, uses the energy to cook food products at 22 of its 28 coffee factories. Incineration has reduced the amount of coffee grounds going to landfill by 800,000 tonnes each year.

Reuse and recycle

It’s not just the actual coffee that causes waste. Every year, an estimated 2.5 billion throwaway coffee cups are used in the UK. The plastic film which coats the paper renders them unrecyclable. That’s approximately 25,000 tonnes of waste.

Founded by Safia Qureshi, Cup Club is a small start-up that’s testing reusable cups. And you won’t end up reusing the cup without washing it, or leaving it at the bottom of the wrong bag: the system is designed to let you drop off the cup at designated points, where it’ll be washed and returned to the cafe. 

A trendy reusable cup from Cup Club

Other solutions include making consumers pay, along the lines of the plastic-bag tax, but the solution could be even easier. In his campaign to reduce the number of standard coffee cups we use, chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall highlighted that recyclable versions do exist. It’s just making sure cafes know consumers care about what happens to their cup after the cappuccino.

Recycling is now firmly on the capital’s agenda. North London Waste Authority puts on fun events to encourage people to reduce food waste, both at home and at work. It gives out free measuring tools for rice and spaghetti, Tupperware containers and recipe cards for leftovers.

We might not be there yet, but we’re making progress, one cup at a time.

Whether coffee-related or otherwise, at Workspace we’re committed to increasing the amount we recycle and helping our customers do the same. It’s all part of our Doing The Right Thing initiative.

Look out for a Waste Road Show coming to your building soon. It’s your chance to tell us more about your recycling needs, ride an Urban Smoothie bike, play a waste sorting game or pick up free vouchers for tea and — you guessed it — coffee. In the meantime, for more information on recycling at Workspace email Karen Jamison at for a copy of our recently launched Recyclopedia booklet.

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