The Coffee Cup Conundrum

The UK environmental agenda has become a key topic of debate for many businesses and households across the country. The spotlight has been shone upon producers and processors to innovate and find solutions for materials that at best are used as an alternative to fossil fuels in energy recovery facilities and at worst, end up in landfill sites. 

UKWSL has spent several months working with one of the UK’s key Energy producers to tackle the Coffee Cup Conundrum. The customer currently disposes of an estimated 90,000 paper cups each year across two sites in the Midlands. The cups were being segregated and sent for energy recovery. UKWSL and the customer have been seeking an innovative solution to ensure cups are recycled giving our valuable resources a second life within the circular economy.

Our customers coffee cups couldn’t be easily recycled and therefore UKWSL had to look upstream within the supply chain to source an alternative cup that is both recyclable and desirable to the processing market. The solution has been found in the form of a scheme managed by one of the UK’s leading confidential waste collection companies Shredall. Detpak’s RecycleMe TM cups have a next generation lining, meaning that the cup paper has a high value in the recovered waste paper stream.

The coffee cups have been designed using EarthCoating® technology, a highly mineralised resin which is designed to aid the detachment of paper and inner lining during the pulping process. This in turn significantly increases the ease of recycling and quality of the end product. Our customer is changing its supply chain to utilise the RecycleMe TM cups which Shredall will then collect and recycle.

The benefit of change for the customer can be seen in both financial and environmental terms. At first glance, the new cups are marginally more expensive to procure than the previous product. However, because the material is recycled rather than being recovered as general waste, the cost of collecting the material has decreased. The customer has therefore seen an overall reduction in their budget. Environmentally, general waste volumes have decreased by almost 45% meaning a lot more material has now found a new home further up the waste hierarchy.

The scheme in place with Shredall has the option to go one step further. Shredall doesn’t merely recycle the cups, the recycled material is re-manufactured into copier paper which is available for purchase by customers. UKWSL sees this as the perfect example of creating innovative solutions that close the loop on the UK’s valuable resources.

This solution can be easily replicated for other UK businesses looking to push the boundaries by demanding more of the UK’s manufacturing and processing sectors and UKWSL continues to work with many other customers to persuade them to take similar steps.