Industry Collaboration on Recycling Paper Cups

Connector Fall 2018

Paper cups have long been a challenge to recycle. The lining inside the cup that keeps your hot coffee or tea from soaking through the paper and creating a mess complicates the recycling process and isn’t easily separated by today’s recycling equipment. But a recent collaboration has shown that it’s possible to recycle used paper cups into new ones. ‘Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop’ is a partnership between Sustana fiber company, Starbucks and WestRock that has tested out the process of recycling paper cups into new ones.

The collaboration started when Starbucks collected18 truckloads of cups for recycling. Sustana invested in equipment and technology that enables it to separate the lining from the cups, and was able to turn the 18 truckloads of cups back into pulp. Sustana then worked with Seda packaging and WestRock to use the fiber to create new cups that are FDA-compliant for food safety. And thus, this partnership of organizations was able to close the loop on the paper cups.

This successful pilot will help Starbucks work towards its sustainability goal of doubling the recycled content, the recyclability and the reusability of their paper cup by 2022. To help achieve its goal Starbucks has also joined forces with Closed Loop Partners for the NextGen Cup Challenge: a multi-year partnership of food industry leaders to address single used food packaging waste. The challenge seeks to find a global solution to for advancing recoverable fiber to-go cup systems.

Source: SustainAbility