04 Oct Coffee Cup Recycling – NextCupCycle resin
NextCupCycle resin has been developed by Nextek scientists after years of research on paper plastic composites with specifically designed resins and formulations to meet a variety of property requirements.
Paper plastic laminate waste streams have been overlooked for many years. Every takeaway coffee cup unless a specific collection procedure is in place ends up in the general waste bin. Where does this go and what exactly are you throwing away? This blog post highlights these points.
Of the 7 million reported cups thrown away every day in the UK, less than 1% are reportedly recycled. What are coffee cups made up of? Typically a paper cup contains 95 wt.% of high quality Kraft paper and 5 wt.%. of low density polyethylene which prevents the paper absorbing the liquid. Many processes exist that try to separate the laminates which can be costly and energy intensive. Paper mills regards these materials as contaminants which is discussed in a separate blog post.
NextCupCycle resin offers a circular solution to the coffee cup waste stream
To make this one takeaway coffee cup weighing 12g a number of processes have been put into place. This is everything from harvesting the trees through to chipping the trees and transporting to make pulp and then to bleach the pulp and produce paper as well as producing the cup itself. Polyethylene has its own story from a polymerisation plant where the ethylene monomer under certain conditions (temperature, pressure and catalysts) can open up and form longer polymer chains followed by further processing.
The energy carried by each cup can be significant so is it right that of the assumed 7 million cups of coffee that are consumed in the UK each day, which corresponds to 84,000 tonnes based on a 12g paper cup, end up in the ground in landfill? Nextek have shown that this material with the right end of life treatment can be made into paper plastic composites (everyday products) that enhance the material properties rather than just act as a filler. Scientists at Nextek have specially designed formulations to meet a wide range of specifications.
We have teamed up with Simply Cups for the collection of the cups and are working hard to minimize contamination through bin design. Ultimately the consumers need to understand that the less contaminants that are in the bin the better the end product that they will use. This is a great circular story that needs a global community to make it a true success story.
Another thought would be that 7 million cups is an estimate. What about the fast food chains? They are giving soft drinks with every meal in paper cups? How many Fast food meals are being sold globally right now? A quick google search showed that a large food chain have 3.5 million customers a day in the UK. Potentially that is an extra 3.5 million cups from just one fast food chain. How many ice cream tubs are also being sold? We have a much bigger problem that we are neglecting.
At Nextek we promote to design a product for recycling but in cases where this is not the case we can develop circular recycling solutions. With the right collection and support we can turn this significant waste stream into products which replace virgin products with improved properties. We have teamed up with ashortwalk who can turn NextCupCycle resin into everyday products.
So, when you enjoy your next cup of coffee – think where can I recycle it so the high-quality materials can be utilised and used to make everyday products. You can be a part of the growing interest in a circular approach to recycling. Make a difference – start recycling your coffee cups. Find your nearest recycling point.