Resource Use

Partnership to process waste plastic as part of coffee cup recycling scheme

Paper manufacturer and recycling company James Cropper has partnered with Cumbria Waste and New Horizon Plastics to recycle waste plastics as part of their coffee cup recycling scheme. 

James Cropper Coffee Cup Recycling The partnership means that James Cropper can now recycle plastic from the linings of cups as well as waste paper as part of their coffee cup recycling scheme. Until now, the plastic – which makes up roughly 5 per cent of a single-use coffee cup – was removed by the company and used to produce Energy from Waste (EfW), which would then help power the paper recycling process.

Now all of the materials in the cups will be recycled, with the separated waste plastics being redirected to New Horizon’s recycling facility in North Wales.

James Cropper can now recycle plastic from single-use coffee cups.

Single-use coffee cups are currently sorted by waste management companies before arriving at the James Cropper mill in Kendal. The plastics are then separated from the paper during the ‘CupCycling’ process and the paper fibre recycled into new products and packaging.

As part of the new partnership, the waste plastics will be collected by Cumbria Waste and recycled by New Horizon into pellets. The pelletised plastics can then be sold for use in the manufacture of other products, most likely with commercial packaging or agricultural applications.

Rob Tilsley, Fibre Operations Group Leader from James Cropper, said: “Recognising value in the high quality fibre used to create paper cups, we were inspired to convert this enormous waste stream into a value stream instead, and now we’ve taken it even further.

“Working with our local waste management partner, Cumbria Waste, we have been relentlessly exploring sustainable opportunities where the cup plastic can be recycled or reused locally. Following extensive trials, New Horizon tested and approved the plastic waste, which is separated from cups during the CupCycling process, and it is now collected by Cumbria Waste and recycled by them in North Wales.

“New Horizon Plastics, one of the best plastic reprocessing companies in the UK, has the capability to shred, wash and turn the cup’s waste plastic into pellet form. Processing around 155 tonnes of plastic every day, the clean plastic pellets eventually end up in a range of products such as bags and wraps to plastic gates, animal pens and grain stores.”

The Mandatory Paper Cup Takeback Scheme

The news follows the delay of a Mandatory Paper Cup Takeback scheme by the UK Defra. The scheme, now set to come into effect in October 2025, will require all businesses with more than 10 employees that provide paper cups to report twice a year on the volume of cups sold, host a takeback scheme for customers, and report on the number of cups being sent for recycling.

The scheme was set to come into effect in October next year, but has been delayed 12 months to ‘ensure sufficient time for cup sellers to prepare for the introduction of the regulations’.
The Foodservice Packaging Association, supported by James Cropper, has urged against the delays, believing they could have a negative impact on the growth of retailer support and participation in the scheme.

Rob Tilsley continued: “In addition to being able to recycle 100 per cent of every cup, we have increased our capacity by 40 per cent at our CupCycling plant – allowing us to recycle up to 700 million cups per annum – and have expanded the areas from which we will be collecting cups.

“Organisations from across the cup recycling ecosystem have invested heavily in supporting the mandatory takeback scheme. Seeing this fantastic opportunity delayed is an unnecessary setback.”

James Cropper commissions new commercial packaging

The company has also commissioned new commercial packaging, which will be made with 30 per cent recycled content and use less material per package. The new wrap, which protects paper from moisture ingress during transport, will have a higher stretch percentage – allowing the paper maker to reduce the amount of material used by a third.

James Cropper plans to increase the recycled plastic content of the wrap to 50 per cent - exceeding the 30 per cent requirement set by the plastic tax which came into force in April 2022.
Rob Tilsley added: “This work is the result of some fantastic collaborations with partners that have helped us achieve our pledge to the Ellen MacArthur Global Commitment to work to accelerate the transition to a more effective circular economy.

“From the world’s first technology to upcycle used coffee cups to the industry leading incorporation of used jeans into fully recyclable paper for packaging – transforming waste into beautiful paper and packaging is at the heart of our fibre blending expertise. Our FibreBlend Upcycled Technology team is focused on perpetual sustainable fibre innovation, and these new developments further solidify our commitment to offer better.” 

Related Articles