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Coffee cup recycling kicks off at James Cropper

Paper manufacturer James Cropper has set its sights on recycling some of the 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups thrown away every year in the UK.

The problem posed by disposable coffee cups is now well known, with more and more retailers publicly committing to cutting down their use of the product. In April, for instance, Waitrose announced plans to stop selling single-use cups in all its stores by the autumn, while Starbucks has been trialling an added five pence charge on all drinks sold in the disposable vessels.

Coffee cup recycling kicks off at James Cropper
Bill Swan of Paper Round (left) and Richard Burnett of James Cropper (right) discuss their new venture.

Due to their mixed-material composition – paper with a plastic lining – the cups do require a more specialised recycling technique than many paper reprocessors can offer. However, a growing number of companies have been working to offer new recycling solutions to the problem.

Luxury paper manufacturer James Cropper, based in the Lake District, has now come forward with its trademarked CupCycling process, which allows the company to separate the plastic and paper and use the fibre to make bespoke recycled products, while the plastic lining is processed at a separate facility.

The company has just received its first load of coffee cups through a collaboration with recycling partner Paper Round. Set up in 1988 as a Friends of the Earth project, Paper Round now collects a wide range of different waste streams from 5,000 businesses in London, including food, glass, card and some other complex items like batteries and coffee grounds, which it delivers to innovative recycling start-up bio-bean.

Being rolled out to all of Paper Round’s clients this month, the coffee cup service provides businesses with a colour-coded sack to collect the items, which are then sorted at the company’s dedicated materials recycling facility (MRF) in Purfleet, Essex.

Commenting on the partnership with James Cropper, Paper Round’s Director Bill Swan said: “We are very proud to be recycling coffee cups. Paper Round is all about real recycling, so working with James Cropper to ensure that our customers cups are made into high quality paper was very important to us. We look forward to recycling many more cups from our customers as we roll the scheme out.”

Richard Burnett, Market Development Manager at James Cropper, added: “We are delighted to be getting such good quality material from an MRF. It’s vital the coffee cups are collected in a separate stream so that the virgin paper used to make them can be recycled back into valuable products like our custom-made papers”.

See also: Heathrow pledges to recycle 13.5 million coffee cups a year

James Cropper claims it has so far recycled over six million cups, and at full capacity will be able to process 500 million cups a year. With packaging company DS Smith having also recently announced plans to begin the industrial-scale recycling of coffee cups at its Kemsley paper mill in Kent, it could be that the UK now has the capacity to recycle all of its coffee cup waste. However, it is the collection of cups for recycling that presents the greatest barrier to this goal; the lack of collection infrastructure in consumer hubs, where most cups are used and disposed of on-the-go, means most of the items are quickly lost into residual waste.

With the government so far loathe to commit to legislative action to tackling the coffee cup waste problem, it is therefore down to voluntary partnerships, like that between James Cropper and Paper Round, to develop a stronger collection infrastructure to ensure the cups find their way to recycling. Coffee chain Costa revealed in April that it will be providing cups to DS Smith by subsidising waste collection companies to collect the products, paying £70 per tonne of cups collected with the aim of raising the value of the waste stream and providing an incentive for their collection and recycling.

More information about James Cropper’s cup recycling scheme can be found on the CupCycling website.

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