Trial proves that paper cups are recyclable

The Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group has reported on a successful paper cup recycling trial in which virtually all the fibre from standard Polyethylene (PE) coated paper cups was successfully extracted and converted into high quality tissue fibre for use in products such as facial and toilet tissues.

On average standard paper cups, intended for hot drinks, are made up of approximately 95 per cent high quality paper fibre and five per cent PE coating. During the trials at a paper mill in the north of England, nearly all the paper fibre was successfully extracted, making it possible to claim that the ‘industry standard paper cup’ is 95 per cent recyclable and that the recycling can take place in the UK.

The paper mill involved in the trial, pleased with the quality of fibre obtained, has asked the Paper Cup Recovery & Recycling Group to consider on-going paper cup recovery, provided continuity of supply can be maintained, at a level of, at least, 10 tonnes per month. The mill and the group are also working to find an outlet for the separated PE coating.

The trial involved processing over 10 tonnes of used post consumer paper cups, collected at trial locations in the UK.  The group’s next objective is to speed up used cup collection in order to maintain the newly established option and open up further UK recycling routes for paper cups.

Over the past two years the group has been working with several UK paper mills and the Fibre Technology Association to explore local recycling opportunities for paper cups. It has also worked to define how best to prepare used paper cups for recycling.

“This is a fantastic step forward for the group,” says Barry Read of the Fibre Technology Association and Technical Advisor to the Group, “but the next challenge is collecting enough used material, a minimum of 120 tonnes through 2009, to maintain continuity of supply to mills. If anyone is already segregating paper cups on site and wants to help the activity of the group please can they get in touch with us.” In addition, the group is also working with Save A Cup and now all paper cups collected by the scheme will be passed to the group for recycling.