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Seeking Solutions for the Paper Cup Problem by Ellie Bradley

F

irst things first: most paper coffee cups aren’t recyclable. Traditional paper cups contain a plastic-based polyethylene liner that prevents liquids from seeping through the paper (pretty important), but renders the cups unrecyclable by most municipal facilities. Separating the plastic liner from the paper cup requires specialized equipment, forcing these facilities to send paper cups to landfills and incinerators. How big is the problem? In the US, an estimated 54 billion paper cups are used each year. Each disposable coffee cup contributes 0.24 pounds of carbon gas (i.e. greenhouse gas) to the atmosphere. On an individual level, a person who purchased one cup of disposable coffee each day would be generating 23 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, 28 gallons of water usage, and 16 pounds of solid waste over the course of the year. Yikes. Now for the good news. Growing concerns around increasing sustainability in business and decreasing waste have resulted in a slew of innovations in paper cup technology. Most of these are happening in Europe, but new technologies are also emerging in the United States. A proposed “Latte Levy” from the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee—a tax of 25 pence per nonrecyclable cup— has heightened tensions around the topic of waste in the coffee industry and underscored the need for better options. Solutions come in recyclable and compostable varieties, some that are starting on a small scale, and others that are going after large chains. Which solutions offer the most promise? Here’s the rundown:

FrugalCup by FrugalPac FrugalCups by FrugalPac are made from recycled paper, which is an advancement in itself—most cups are made from virgin paper fibers. The cup features an inner plastic sleeve, which easily separates from the paper portion of the cup in a traditional recycling system. FrugalPac was founded by Martin Myerscough, who has been a prominent voice in the quest for better paper cup technology, even testifying before the UK Environmental Audit Committee. FrugalCups have trialed at several independent cafés in England, and Starbucks has reportedly agreed to trial the cups in some of their UK shops. Pros: • Cups are made of recyclable paper, and can be recycled using traditional facilities. Cons: • The liner uses more plastic than traditional cups, which doesn’t do anything to cut back on plastic use. • Requires special equipment to be produced Leaf by Zeus Packaging The Leaf features a plastic inner cup that completely detaches from a recyclable paper sleeve. The layers are designed to be separated by the consumer via an easy-tear strip, resulting in a two pieces that are 100% recyclable. Pros: • Both the paper and plastic components of the cup are 100% recyclable in existing recycling systems. Cons: • If consumers don’t separate the two components, the cup is considered mixed material and cannot be recycled. reCUP by SmartPlanet Technologies The reCUP™ (also available under private label brands Vericup™ and Recycup™ among others) is one of the few recyclable cups available in the United States. Developed by a materials engineering company in Southern California, the reCUP appears identical to a traditional cup, but features a modified lining that easily breaks down like paper, making the cup compatible with existing paper recycling equipment.

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cont. on page 10 March 2018

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February-March 2018  

INFORMATION IS POWER - Do you know as much as your competition? Do NOT give them the competitive advantage! CoffeeTalk makes it easy to stay...

February-March 2018  

INFORMATION IS POWER - Do you know as much as your competition? Do NOT give them the competitive advantage! CoffeeTalk makes it easy to stay...