James Cropper cracks the coffee cup conundrum for paper recycling

Posted on 17 Jul 2013

Cumbrian luxury paper manufacturer James Cropper has developed the world's first quality paper products made from recycled coffee cups.

The firm has been able to separate plastic content from cups, leaving pulp fit for making luxury papers.

The Queen and the Princess Royal inaugurated the company’s new £5m reclaimed fibre plant at its production mill in Kendal today.

Previously, the 5% plastic content of paper cups has made them unsuitable for use in papermaking. An estimated 2.5bn cups go to landfill every year in the UK alone.

Mark Cropper, chairman of James Cropper, said:

“Cup waste is a rich source of high grade pulp fibre, but until now the plastic content made this product a contaminant in paper recycling. Our technology changes that and also addresses a major environmental waste problem and accompanying legislation.

“We are greatly honoured that Her Majesty the Queen and The Princess Royal are joining us on the occasion of our new plant opening.”

It has taken the company four years of development to make disposable cups, made of up to 95% high strength paper with a 5% thin coating of polyethylene, viable for reuse as paper products.

The process involves softening the cup waste in a warmed solution, separating the plastic coating from the fibre. The plastic is skimmed off, pulverised and recycled, leaving water and pulp. Impurities are filtered out leaving high grade pulp suitable for use in luxury papers and packaging materials.

The paper company has production sites in both the UK and US with half of their products exported.