Heathrow plans to cut and recycle all single-use coffee cups collected from more 20 outlets and lounges as part of a longer-term ambition to phase out single-use plastics.
The airport estimates that its 78 million annual passengers use more than 13.5 million disposable coffee cups.
The obligatory introduction of a reusable coffee cups at the airport’s head office will mean more than 250,000 single-use cups will no longer be used by the company.
The London hub has set a target to standardise and recycle all single-use coffee cups by the end of the year and continue efforts to completely rid staff areas of these cups.
Dedicated coffee cup collection points will be introduced across all terminals in coming weeks.
Retailers offer varying types of coffee cups at the airport, making it more difficult to sort and reprocess than other materials.
Heathrow is working to simplify the switch to a single recyclable cup to be collected by the airport’s waste supplier. Batches of recyclable cups will then be transferred in consolidated loads to national waste collectors for recycling.
Heathrow is also looking at other ways to reduce consumption of single-use plastic products, such as bottles, stirrers and straws, as well as working to ensure reusable crockery is available in restaurants.
Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “As a small city, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and using all our influence to ensure individual companies working within our boundaries do so as well.
“This announcement takes us one step further, ensuring all single-use coffee cups at the airport are able to be recycled with additional support from Heathrow.”
He added: “For businesses, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee – join us in banning single-use coffee cups in your office today so that we can make a difference to tomorrow.”
The Sustainable Restaurant Association founder and director Simon Heppner, added: “Our work with Heathrow and its food and beverage partners over the last few years has helped lay the foundations for a more collaborative approach to tackling the sustainability challenges we face.
“Today’s commitment to reduce and recycle single-use coffee cups builds on this collaboration and is a welcome interim step forward.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the airport and its partners to achieve this and to ensure focus is maintained on the bigger goals – not only today’s more ambitious commitment to phase out single-use cups entirely but also to take a critical look at all disposable products.”
Baroness Sugg, Aviation Minister, said: “I’m delighted to see Heathrow taking action to introduce recyclable coffee cups. Through our aviation strategy we’ll be working with industry to reduce the use of single-use plastics at airports and in the air so we can leave our planet in a better state than which we found it.
“Steps could include encouraging the wider installation of water fountains in airports to enable passengers to refill their bottles once they have passed through security.”