Starbucks To Trial Recyclable Paper Coffee Cups

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 09.12.02A potential answer to the problem of the 2.5bn coffee cups that don’t get recycled in the UK every year will be unveiled today (21 July) with the launch of a revolutionary new paper cup that has already seen Starbucks agree to a UK trial.

Entrepreneur Martin Myerscough, chief executive of British company Frugalpac, says he has solved the problem of only 1 in 400 paper cups currently being recycled, with most ending up in landfill.

The Frugalpac cup is made from recycled paper, is competitively-priced and recyclable in normal paper mills.

Anti-waste campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall called for action earlier this year that resulted in questions being asked in the UK parliament and several national newspaper front pages.

More than 2.5bn coffee cups are disposed of in the UK every year, according to Which?. Put them end-to-end and they would go around the world five and a half times, would weigh as much as a battleship and are made from over 100,000 trees. But very few of these cups gets recycled and nearly all end up in landfill – that’s 25,000 tonnes of waste a year – enough to fill London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Disposable Cups

Existing cups are made using virgin paper from mature trees. A thin layer of plastic film is bonded to the paper while it is flat. The film provides the waterproof layer to the cup, without which the cup would leak and go soft. Waterproof chemical agents are also added to the paper.

This flat sheet is then printed and formed into the cup. The plastic film inside the cup is not only bonded tightly to the paper but is also trapped in the seam, adding to the difficulty of recycling.

At present, there are only two places in the whole of the UK that can recycle conventional paper cups. That means only 1 in 400 paper cups actually gets recycled.

Existing cups require specialist recycling facilities because the plastic film does not separate from the paper in a normal recycling centre. The specialist process uses a lot more energy and chemicals than normal paper recycling. In most countries, once the cups have left the store, there is no mechanism for transporting them to specialist mills.

At present, there are only two places in the whole of the UK that can recycle conventional paper cups. That means only 1 in 400 paper cups actually gets recycled.

Frugalpac cups are made by making the paper into a cup first without adding chemicals to the recycled paper, and then applying a thin plastic liner to the inside. The plastic liner is lightly bonded onto the paper cup. The top of the liner is then rolled over the lip of the cup, which looks, feels and performs just like the conventional cup.

Because the liner is so lightly glued in place, when the cup goes to the standard paper mills it separates from the paper in the recycling process. This means Frugalpac cups can be disposed of in newspaper recycling bins. This will help a confused public – a Which? report found 8 in 10 people thought existing cups were already being recycled! The paper used to make Frugalpac cups can be recycled up to seven times, typically for newspapers.

Paper Cup Manifesto

Starbucks said it will be testing to see if the cup meets its standards for safety and quality

As a result of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign, the packaging industry and major coffee retailers launched a Paper Cup Manifesto in June 2016 with the objective of significantly increasing paper cup recovery and recycling rates by 2020.

The manifesto has more than 30 signatories representing each stage of the paper cup supply chain from raw material suppliers, cup manufacturers and retail high street brands to waste and recovery operators and paper reprocessors. They include Starbucks, McDonald’s and Costa.

Frugalpac cups could make a very significant contribution to meeting the manifesto’s aims.

Intertek tested the Frugalpac cup, which is made from recycled paper, against current cups which use virgin paper. The exisiting cups’ footprint was tested with one going to landfill, one being incinerated and the other coming from China and ending up in landfill.

The Frugalpac cup carbon footprint was 24.6g of CO2 provided the cup is taken to a recycling centre, the current cup going to landfill was 39.4g of CO2, the incinerated existing cup was 42.3g of CO2 and a current cup from China that ended up in landfill came out at 52.5g of CO2.

The carbon footprint comparison was assessed using the world’s leading and most trusted software and data: SimaPro 8.1 and Ecoinvent 3.1.

According to the Guardian, Starbucks will trial the Frugalpac coffee cup in its UK shops. A Starbucks spokesman said: “We are very interested in finding out more about the Frugalpac cup and we will be testing it to see if it meets our standards for safety and quality, with a view to trialling its recyclability.”

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