Coffee pod recycling provides new trees for Cheltenham

Published on 17th December 2021

Councillors help plant trees in local park

A new ‘pocket forest’ will be created in Cheriton Park Hillview, thanks to the Podback coffee pod recycling service helping to tackle climate change and achieve ‘Cheltenham Zero’ by 2030.

Cheltenham Borough Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and has since set an ambitious target to become a net zero council and borough by 2030.  The council is now producing its ‘climate change mitigation pathway’, which sets out the many actions needed to reach this 2030 target and to create a community which is resilient to the impacts of climate change. Two key areas of focus for the coming years are tree planting and recycling. Planting trees helps absorb pollutants and improve air quality, whilst recycling helps save natural resources and reduces carbon emissions generated by throwing items away in landfill and even incineration.

Cheltenham Borough Council is working in partnership with Podback, the not-for-profit coffee pod recycling service, to encourage people to recycle their aluminium and plastic coffee pods at home. The service has proved very popular with over half a million pods estimated to have been collected for recycling so far.

To get involved, residents simply need to register at www.podback.org and order free recycling bags. These bags can then be put out for kerbside collection every week with waste and recycling on their normal collection day. Residents can recycle both plastic and aluminium coffee pods depending on the pods they use.

Once collected, the coffee pods are sent for reprocessing in the UK. The coffee grounds are used to create soil improver and renewable energy. The plastic and aluminium are recycled into new products.

As part of this partnership, Podback is working with SUGi an organisation that helps to create accessible, ‘pocket forests’ using native trees to help improve the local environment, encourage biodiversity and provide habitats for local species and engage communities. Approximately, 300 trees will be planted at Cheriton Park Hillview in a 100marea close to Morrisons supermarket, the community centre and local primary school Greatfield Park. The site has been chosen as the trees will have plenty of space to grow and can be enjoyed by residents. Coffee grounds generated through the Podback recycling process will be used to support the tree planting, which began this week.

Cheltenham Borough Council is working with Podback, SUGi, the local parish council and school to co-ordinate the tree planting.

Cllr Iain Dobie, cabinet member for waste, recycling and street services said “We are really excited about this partnership project with Podback and SUGi. It provides us with a real opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to reducing carbon whilst also making use of the soil improver created because of the coffee pods that Cheltenham residents have recycled. The development of a new ‘pocket forest’ allows us to get residents involved and will be accessible to everyone. It’s a proactive step towards our Cheltenham Zero target and shows how worthwhile recycling is.”

Podback is providing the funding to SUGi to plant the trees and Cheltenham Borough Council will maintain these once complete. These forests are developed to establish quickly with virtually no maintenance. SUGi has significant experience of developing ‘pocket forests’ across the world. Having planted 112,000 trees to date, restoring 404 species and 34,500m2 of land.

Elise Van Middelem, founder of SUGi, said “This exciting partnership between Podback and SUGi will bring numerous environmental benefits. Tree planting will restore local land to a natural, forested state; the wide range of tree species planted will encourage biodiversity; using Podback’s collected coffee grounds in the soil will provide nutrients for growth and help to build a healthy soil structure. Returning the collected coffee grounds to the soil make this planting circular and unique. We couldn’t be more thrilled to bring sustainability to life in this very visible and tangible way.”

Rick Hindley, Podback’s executive director, added: “Podback is a pioneering example of end-to-end recycling, with coffee brands, retailers and local authorities working together to enable people to easily recycle their pods. Cheltenham Borough Council is our first council to plant trees as part of the Podback partnership. This work with SUGi will use our coffee grounds as soil improver, showing the versatility of the recycling process.”


Notes to editors:

Podback is a not-for-profit coffee pod recycling service. Created in partnership with the biggest names in coffee pod systems, Nespresso, NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto and Tassimo, to give people who enjoy the quality and taste of coffee pods simple and easy ways to recycle them.

Find out more about the Cheltenham Podback recycling service.  

Other local authorities providing a Podback kerbside service include: Chichester District Council, Exeter City Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Oxford City Council and South Derbyshire District Council.

Find more about the actions Cheltenham Borough Council’s is taking in response to the Climate Emergency.

For press enquiries, contact the council’s communications team, email communications@cheltenham.gov.uk or 01242 264154.