McDonalds announces paper cup recycling trial

McDonald’s UK has teamed up with paper manufacturer James Cropper in a new trial aimed at recycling the chain’s previously non-recyclable paper cups.                                       

The trial has already been introduced at 150 of the UK’s 1,250 McDonald’s restaurants, and involves the collection of used paper cups at McDonald’s branches and their subsequent baling by paper cup recovery and recycling scheme Simply Cups, which launched in 2014. The cups will then be sent to the James Cropper facility for recycling.

The partnership will explore different options regarding sustainability in recycling and hopes the paper cup trial will encourage a more widespread adoption of paper cup recycling.

James Cropper recycling method

James Cropper estimates that the UK uses up to 2.5 billion paper cups every year.  The problems with the recycling of paper cups lie in their polyethylene coating, which prevents them from being recycled within household waste, and the fact that cups are usually carried away from their place of purchase, where recycling facilities would be most efficient.

The James Cropper reclaimed fibre plant, which was opened by the Queen in 2013, recycles paper cups by removing their plastic coating. According to the company, the process doesn’t produce any waste as 90 per cent of the cup waste is converted into reclaimed fibre, which can be used to produce items such as stationary or brochures. 

The plastic waste, which makes up the other 10 per cent, can be recycled into other plastic products, such as garden furniture.

James Cropper says that the trial could cause a significant reduction in paper cup waste.

Creating an ‘effective and sustainable supply chain’

Richard Burnett, Market Development Manager at James Cropper, said:  “The partnership with McDonald’s has been nearly two years in the making and signifies an important step towards recycling used paper cups and, ultimately, reducing waste going to landfill. By collaborating with McDonald’s, we’re working towards an effective scheme that can recoup as many used paper cups as possible, which can then go back into the supply chain.

“With the demand for eco-friendly products rising, we’re seeing more and more clients interested in using reclaimed fibre as part of their paper requirements, in luxury shopping bags and company literature, for instance. This groundbreaking trial with McDonald’s demonstrates how organisations can work together to create a mutually beneficial, effective and sustainable supply chain. Businesses can use ‘green’ processes and schemes to simultaneously minimise waste and utilise an otherwise waste material as a new product.”

Helen McFarlane, sustainability consultant at McDonald’s UK, added: “Paper cups constitute about 30 per cent of our packaging waste, and this is a great opportunity to ensure that the quality fibre used in making those cups gets another life.

“We have recently started to introduce recycling stations in our restaurants to allow customers to separate paper cups, and we’re eager to see what this trial with James Cropper and Simply Cups will look like, hopefully helping set up the infrastructure for others to use in future.”

More information on James Cropper can be found on the company’s website.

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