More than 1.2 million coffee cups have been recycled in the first year of a trial scheme to cut waste in Leeds.
Almost 200 brightly-coloured recycling bins were placed in the city centre in October 2018 to take packaging for food and drink consumed in the street.
Before then the city’s bins were not suitable for “on-the-go” waste.
The new bins have also handled 160,000 plastic bottles but the scheme’s organisers estimated 80% of recyclable products still went in the wrong bin.
The #LeedsByExample project installed the recycling bins for plastic bottles, cans and paper cups on the streets, in offices, shopping centres, universities and transport hubs in the square mile of Leeds city centre.
Environmental charity Hubbub and recycling compliance scheme Ecosurety were behind the 12-month trial.
The scheme has since spread to Edinburgh and Swansea, with plans to roll it out to other cities and towns in 2020.
Although recycling at home and kerbside collections have improved over the years, organisers said the rate of recycling “on the go” was still low.
About 13 billion plastic bottles, nine billion drinks cans and 2.5 billion coffee cups were used in the UK each year, campaigners said.
The Leeds scheme cost £400,000 and was funded by major brands and retailers.
This included the installation of new orange “smiley face” recycling bins, and some existing litter bins being re-skinned in bright yellow.
A Yorkshire dialect saying “Empty plastic and cans, nowt else” was used on some of the bins.
A Hubbub spokesperson said: “We’ve observed people using bins and found actually they spend under two seconds at a bin, so you need to make it really simple, straightforward and eye-catching.”
During the 12-month scheme:
- 140,000 cans and 160,000 plastic bottles were recycled
- At least 1.2 million coffee cups were recycled, equating to more than seven tonnes of cups
- Eight recycle reward machines were trialled, collecting 31,700 items for recycling, of which more than half were cans
The volumes collected during the trial were relatively low in comparison to the volume of waste generated on the streets of Leeds city centre.
Leeds City Council said an estimated 126 tonnes of waste was generated from the 500 bins in the city centre, every month. All of this waste would be incinerated.
Campaigners have argued more public education was needed, as several audits showed 80% of plastic and cans were still disposed of in the general black waste bins, even when a recycling bin was directly next to it.