Paper cup recycling business owner celebrates first year with plans for Thame collection points

Thomas Wylam with sponsor and mentors
Thomas Wylam with sponsor and mentors

A young entrepreneur who has developed a business recycling paper cups is celebrating a first successful year and plans to set up collection points in Thame.

Thomas Wylam, a final-year pupil at Princes Risborough Upper School, has completed a productive year developing Cupcycl, after winning first prize in the Small Business Saturday Young Entrepreneurs Competition, held in Thame last December.

The competition, sponsored by CarmichaelUK, a specialist civil engineering and construction recruitment company headquartered in Thame, was open to young entrepreneurs under the age of 30 who had a great business idea and were based in Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire.

More than 8 million paper cups are disposed of every day, but they are not made from easily recyclable materials and take 30 years to rot down in landfill.

Cupcycl is a waste management project that aims to reduce the number of cups being disposed of via landfill by providing the infrastructure for them to be properly recycled and turned into new goods.

Thomas said: “Thame’s Young Entrepreneur Competition gave me the opportunity to take an idea and run with it. It’s fantastic to have gone through this process and get to where I am now, with a project that brings something unique to the local area.

“Thanks to the event sponsor, CarmichaelUK, the prize included not only the financial means to start up CupCycl, but also 12 months of mentoring. This helped me develop my scheme so that I could exhibit at Thame Food Festival, where I recycled the cups of over 1,200 visitors to my stand. I’m delighted with the interest I’ve had from other local event organisers, who may run this scheme at their events.

“The goal for 2018 is to install collection points in Thame so that coffee shop customers can dispose of their cups and ensure they get recycled, rather than go to landfill. Currently, even cups put in recycling bins end up being picked out as contaminants and put into landfill, because recycling authorities don’t have facilities to separate the wax coating that waterproofs paper cups.”

Owen Mendez, commercial director of CarmichaelUK, the competition sponsors, said: “It’s great to be able to support innovation and encourage entrepreneurship in the next generation of business people.”

Thomas also drew praise from his three mentors, who gave their time free of charge - Jackie Jarvis, business and sales coach; Sarah Fletcher of social media experts, Mushroom Souffle; and Jemima King of Richardson’s Chartered Accountants.

Jackie said: “Thomas is really impressive, incredibly well-organised, and has a good business head on his shoulders. He took on board everything I told him about opening up opportunities, participated in my natural stress-free selling programme, and appreciated the value of tips from my book Quick Wins in Sales and Marketing.”

Sarah said: “Thomas attended one of my Facebook workshops and attended a private mentoring session. It was great to see him absorb information and come up with ideas for social media and how he could implement them. I’m looking forward to seeing his business progress and become a great success.”

Jemima added: “We discussed business planning, including the importance of budgeting and the implications of different business structures. We were impressed with Tom’s enthusiasm and commitment to running a business while completing his A-Level exams.”

The Young Entrepreneurs Competition has taken a break this year, but it is intended to run it again in 2018. Sponsors are being sought and if any businesses in the local area are interested, they should contact Helen Johns at or on 0771 743 4983.