Paper cups are notoriously hard to recycle as the polyethylene-coating means they can’t be recycled amongst ordinary household waste.
To address this, McDonald’s has partnered with papermaker James Cropper to trial a recycling and collection system which can cope with the coating to turn plastic-coated disposable cups into new paper products.
An estimated 2.5billion paper cups are used in the UK every year. The volume and their hard to recycle nature has prompted debate over whether a disposable cup tax could help to reduce volumes (see article in Footprint’s February magazine for more on this).
Cups account for about 30% of McDonald’s packaging waste. The trial is being rolled out at across 150 of McDonald’s 1250 UK restaurants. Customers will have to separate cups into newly introduced cup recycling stations. The cups will be collected and baled by Simply Cups, the UK’s only paper cup recovery and recycling scheme, before being delivered to James Cropper for reprocessing, where the paper fibre and plastic can be recycled so it can be repurposed in to new products.
The hope is that the partnership will help to set up an infrastructure for cup recycling which can ultimately be used by others in the industry.