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Trying to tackle paper cups

Avatar Posted on: 2017-03-14 10:51 AM
Paper cups came under the spotlight again with the news that coffee retail chain Costa is rolling out a nationwide recycling scheme. They aren’t the only players in the high street; McDonald's, Greggs, and Starbucks are among the other household names involved in finding ways to boost paper cup recycling and encouraging customers to think differently.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste series might have highlighted the issue to a national audience, but the reality is that the foodservice packaging industry has had the topic on its radar before the TV chef’s vocal drive. And at the forefront of the movement is the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG); an example that collaboration right across the supply chain is the best way to get things done. The goal of the group is to “significantly increase” the recycling rates of paper cups by 2020.
“We’ve always known that the material is valuable and recyclable but it needs the supply chain to come together,” explains Neil Whittall, chair of the PCRRG. “It’s about how we make people aware of what the industry is doing.”
“This is all about cradle-to-grave,” adds Adrian Pratt, vice chair of the PCRRG. “It’s about every element of the supply chain.”
Industry expertise
Both Whittall and Pratt are putting their industry expertise and knowledge, not to mention contacts, to good use: Whittall is also global account director – specialty coffee at foodservice packaging giant Huhtamaki; Pratt is the marketing manager at Benders Paper Cup.

Also on board is sustainability and communications consultancy Anthesis Group, which is effectively a facilitator bringing all the various groups together.  And there are plenty on board. At its first meeting in London last May, over 100 interested parties attended from paper mills to high street retailers.
“We started with the idea of a manifesto,” explains Debbie Hitchen, Anthesis lead for PCRRG co-ordination and director at Anthesis. “It was galvanizing and people got behind it. There was a vision that could be progressed. It’s also unusual to get the level of involvement right across the supply chain.”
Since that meeting, the group has evolved and is making steady progress. Four working groups have been set up to ensure that all the angles are covered. The design working group examines optimizing the recovery of valuable paper fibers from used paper cups. “It looks at the value of the product and the impact of cup design,” adds Whittall. “Also, it looks at the existing technology, what it can offer and what it would take to improve that technology.”

The second working group examines litter. It acknowledges the impact of used paper cups in the litter mix. “Cups are a component and the best way forward is to participate in litter activities,” says Pratt. “New activity on cups is not the right thing to do – we need to engage with others such as national NGOs.”
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