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4th October 2016
The well-publicised debate on paper cup recycling has given rise to claims, from various quarters, reporting to have solved the problem. Whilst working towards finding a solution is far better than flatly dismissing the need for a solution, the question remains why are these apparently compelling solutions not being widely, and immediately, adopted across the industry? In the second of our blogs for edie.net we’ll be looking at the merits of the most commonly cited solutions, biodegradeable cups, compostable cups and cups that are deemed ‘acceptable’ by a paper mills, to understand how they compare to the standard polyethylene-lined cup that is currently widely used across the hospitality industry. Biodegradeable Cups If biodegradation is defined as the disintegration of a product via bacteria, fungi or other biological means, then of what benefit is a biodegradeable cup? I can see the benefit of biodegradeable confetti thrown at a wedding, which will rarely be collected, but paper cups are not disposed of in the same manner and, therefore, represent a clear littering problem. Like all other cups today, the biodegradeable cup is limited to disposal in general waste bins – unless dealt with through Simply Cups, of course - which will result in either landfill or incineration. Neither outcome is ideal, but if there is an absence of oxygen in landfill then the products will not biodegrade and so the role of the biodegradeable cup becomes futile. Compostable Cups Compostable cups will only decompose under certain conditions and so need to find their way to an appropriate facility where ultimately someone can generate value. And this is where the problems start. Whilst facilities certified to PAS 100 can technically accept this material, they first must be assured of the provenance of all packaging that they receive; which is only possible if everyone in the collection chain has been as diligent as each other to ensure that solely compostable packaging has been used. Otherwise, the load will be rejected. In truth, the UK’s AD operators have little need for packaging, given the minimal return it offers. And, with only a handful of commercial In-Vessel Composting facilities, that also require a significant volume of food waste to process the packaging, then compostable cups face exactly the same issue as their recyclable counterpart. I have been asked numerous times whether our scheme can recycle a compostable cup; which, of course, contradicts the rationale for producing a compostable cup in the first place. If the suggested solution is to segregate compostable cups at source and collect via scheme for recycling, then my question is why then would the customer would pay a premium for a compostable cup? Indeed, a more cost-effective recyclable cup would deliver sufficient savings to fund involvement in the recycling scheme whilst at the same time elevating the customer’s performance up the waste hierarchy. Of course, a solution will become significantly more viable if compostable cups become the main choice into the marketplace, but this will require significant investment in infrastructure and a better understanding of the actual benefits of the product based on its full life-cycle analysis, i.e. one that makes considerations outside of solely raw material production. Cups Deemed ‘Acceptable’ By Paper Mills Whilst these are fundamentally consistent with our approach to designing waste out from the front end, the design element must consider the system as a whole and not on the product in isolation, which is where this solution encounters problems. Perhaps, though, we should first consider whether recovery via a pulping process at a paper mill is the best solution at all. This is an extremely resource intensive process in which it, usually, fails to recover the value of the polyethylene lining. With recent innovations to convert paper cups into a new and improved polymer, used to manufacture functional products, why would we then even consider pulping as either a commercially or environmentally viable process? Notwithstanding this argument, we should also consider he negative effect that the residual liquid, left in the cups, has on the quality of the other paper and cardboard streams, as pointed out by the Recycling Association. There is no mechanical solution readily available to separate paper cups in the sorting facility and so simply placing the product in a Mixed Recyclable stream will not result in the cup reaching its intended destination. Therefore, separate paper and cardboard bins will need to be made available in public places, and in particular, on the high street. But even if the cup actually reaches the paper mill, the fundamental issue is how does it differentiate compliant cups from the overwhelming number that are not? The reality is that it cannot, nor has it a commercial reason to do so. The solution to this problem goes back to separating these cups at source and routing the cups directly to the paper mill, thus circumnavigating current infrastructure. But if we can already do this with the existing cup, then why do we need a new ‘recyclable’ cup? It’s the Technosphere not the Biosphere that will solve the problem Despite the many applications of the recycling symbol, claims of certificates proving compostability and labels telling us that we can place cups in our domestic kerbside collection, the reality is that there has been little resource recovered from the very few cups actually being recycled. From the perspective of the Circular Economy, we also need to acknowledge that paper cups belong in the technosphere (recycling) not the biosphere (decompostation) as there are simply no biological nutrients to extract (i.e. plants do not feed off paper cups). We also recognise that Hugh did a fantastic job in raising public awareness of the cup issue, but he was fundamentally missing the point in calling for a ‘recyclable’ cup. The cup that is currently in mass circulation is already recyclable; albeit that we do not have the systems to actually recycle it. The problem will not be solved by considering product design or recycling systems in isolation, but instead will require significant collaboration to enable us to match system inputs with system outputs. Designated bins, collection systems and infrastructure are currently required for any type of cup, so let us not be too hasty in casting aside our current ‘recyclable’ cup, and certainly not if it provides us with the best chance of it actually being recycled!Read More
15th September 2016
RWM, Europe’s most prestigious resource management show, this week became the world’s first large-scale event to conduct paper cup recycling, thanks to Simply Cups. To mark this historic moment, our mascot, Cupbert, was given the honour of opening the show, who then broke the world record for the number of selfies. Read moreRead More
Festival Republic is UK-based music promoter that runs seven flagship events across Europe, including the Reading and Leeds festivals, and which are attended by over half a million fans. Festival Republic aims to reduce the impact its business and its festivals have on the environment by using innovative solutions to address energy, waste and transport.
bartlett mitchell is an entrepreneurial caterer who provide tailor-made and innovative food to 40,000 customers every day. We are an agile team who develop solutions that use resources more smartly. Sustainability underpin everything we do – from sourcing responsibly and reducing waste to supporting communities. We’ve won the SRA ‘Sustainable Caterer of the Year’ Award three years in succession.
Go-Pak UK has fast become a leading privately owned supplier of foodservice disposables. We specialise in providing quality packaging solutions, all the while striving to achieve lasting partnerships with customers, manufacturing partners and service providers alike. Through our expertise in supply chain management, our exceptional quality product offering and outstanding customer service, we aim to provide the best possible solutions to our clients’ needs.
Bunzl Catering Supplies
As the leading distributor of disposables, packaging and hygiene solutions into the UK hospitality industry; the BCS range of compostable disposables called Sustain represent a long term commitment to work with customers to transform waste into a resource.
L’Oreal UK & Ireland
L’Oréal is a global leader in cosmetics, specialising in beauty products. From make up and skin care to hair colour and tanning – because we’re worth it.
At Caffe Praego Coffee Company, we are passionate about producing superb tasting Arabica coffee which we personally source direct from farmers & co-operatives in Rwanda. Through our partnership with Point Foundation we deliver education, sustainable living & disability projects, which since 2006 have supported around 4,500 children. Working in partnership with Simply Cups further strengthens our passion for CSR.
Compass Group is the global market leader in providing food and a range of support services to customers in the workplace, schools and colleges, hospitals, at leisure and in remote environments. The company actively promotes green business practices such as teleconferencing, flexible working and best practice in regards to recycling, travel and communications throughout all of its business operations and corporate offices.
The VaioPak Group
From paper cups to takeaway bags to customised stickers, the VaioPak Group leads the way in providing cost effective solutions for all manner of takeaway packaging and printed consumable needs. Now including 8 sister companies, the VaioPak Group continuously looks ahead at market trends in order to develop new and unique packaging with the environment in mind.
Dixons Carphone plc is Europe’s leading specialist electrical and telecommunications retailer and services company, employing over 40,000 people in 9 countries. The company believes that good sustainability practices make sound business sense, that not only to benefit the environment, stakeholders and the communities in which it operates, but also to help it achieve corporate objectives, fulfil its business plan and reduce costs.
Eversheds operates at the leading edge of business. Recognised by Acritas as a Global Elite Law Firm, it provides top quality legal advice to some of the world’s largest corporations both locally and across borders from its 50+ offices in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Loughborough is ranked in the top five of UK universities and was named best in the country for its student experience in a 2016 Times Higher Education magazine survey. It has an international reputation for undertaking research that makes a real difference to society, and is committed to embedding sustainability and social responsibility into everything it does.
Nestlé is the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company. It is a major player within the UK food industry, employing 8,000 people across 20 sites. The company is committed to reducing it environmental impact and is stepping up its efforts to manage waste more effectively. And across its sites, Nestlé is determined to encourage biodiversity and where possible restore land back to its natural state.
The Paper Cup Company
The Paper Cup Company specialises in disposable cups printed with its customers’ branding and manufactured in the UK. The company is actively involved in supporting organisations finding methods for recycling paper cups and offers a ‘plant a tree’ scheme, in collaboration with Green Earth Appeal, with the aim to offset the carbon footprint of printed cups.