UK innovation aims to see every coffee cup recycled

Entrepreneur Martin Myerscough will unveil his revolutionary new paper coffee cup today, which addresses the issue that just 1 in 400 paper coffee cups is currently recycled.

More than 2.5 billion coffee cups are disposed of in the UK every year, according to Which? magazine.  Put them end-to-end and they would go around the world five and a half times, would weigh as much as a battleship and are made from more than 100,000 trees.

However, very few of these cups are recycled and nearly all end up in landfill – equating to 25,000 tonnes of waste a year, enough to fill London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Having spent the past two years in development, it’s hoped that coffee chains and cup producers will see Frugalpac coffee cup as an answer to a significant issue - image courtesy of Frugalpac.
Having spent the past two years in development, it’s hoped that coffee chains and cup producers will see Frugalpac as an answer to a significant issue – image courtesy of Frugalpac.

A conventional coffee cup is made using virgin paper from mature trees. A thin layer of plastic film is bonded to the flat paper to provide a waterproof layer to the cup, without which the cup would leak and go soft. Waterproof chemical agents are also added to the paper.

The sheet is then printed and formed into the coffee cup. The plastic film inside is not only bonded tightly to the paper, but is also trapped in the seam, adding to the difficulty of recycling.

At present, there are only two facilities in the UK that have the capability to recycle an existing coffee cup. The specialist process uses significantly more energy and chemicals than normal paper recycling. Such a situation means typically only 1 in 400 paper cups actually gets recycled.

Martin Myerscough, chief executive, Frugalpac.
Martin Myerscough, chief executive, Frugalpac.

The Frugalpac coffee cup

However, Martin Myerscough, chief executive and founder of Frugalpac, may have the answer. Frugalpac coffee cups are made by forming the paper into a cup first without adding chemicals to the recycled paper, and then applying a thin plastic liner to the inside.

The plastic liner is lightly bonded onto the paper cup. The top of the liner is then rolled over the lip of the cup which looks, feels and performs just like a conventional cup.

Because the liner is so lightly glued in place, when the cup goes to the standard paper mills it separates from the paper in the recycling process. This means Frugalpac cups can be disposed of in newspaper recycling bins. The paper used to make Frugalpac cups can be recycled up to seven times, typically for newspapers.

Having spent the past two years developing the cup, Myerscough hopes that coffee chains and cup producers will see Frugalpac as an answer to a significant issue.