In March this year, celebrity chef and environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall took to the streets of London in a double-decker bus adorned with 10,000 coffee cups and armed with a megaphone to set right a confused British public that has been mistakenly recycling their takeaway coffee cups.
“Every day hundreds of thousands of Britons put their coffee cup into a recycling bin. They’re wrong – those cups aren’t recyclable, and the UK throws away 2.5bn of them a year. It must stop,” said Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Ordinary coffee cups are made from paper laminated with a plastic layer to make the cup waterproof. These layers must then be separated in a recycling unit so that the paper can be used again. However, once the paper and the plastic layers have been bound together, they are very difficult to pull apart and the technique required is only supported by two recycling facilities in the UK. So most of the cups end up in landfill, accounting for around 25,000 tons of waste a year.
Taking this to heart, a brand called Frugalpac has been attempting to engineer a takeaway coffee cup that can be recycled in ordinary waste facilities. And they claim to have succeeded.
“2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the UK each year. The vast majority of these end up in landfill. Put them end to end and they would go round the world five and a half times, would weigh as much as a battleship and are made from over 100,000 trees,” said Head of Marketing at Frugalpac, Jonathan Boyd. “Frugalpac cups are made from recycled paper that is untreated with the chemicals that are used to make current paper cups water resistant.”
The idea behind the Frugalpac is simple, the inner plastic lining is so lightly glued in place and rolled under the lip that standard paper recycling facilities can easily separate the paper from the lining.
The designers are now attempting to attract the interest of big coffee chains, many of which pledged to address the recycling issue as a response to Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘War on Waste’.
“A number of the big coffee shop chains have shown an interest in the Frugalpac cup,” said Boyd. “Of these Starbucks has publicly announced that it is looking at the Frugalpac cup with a view to launching a formal trial.”
Continuing their work to address non-recyclable packaging across the board, the company has designed four more products based on a similar technology that they have pledged to roll out over the next six months, including a rumoured recyclable carton for wine.