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Coffee cups lids are recyclable

Whilst these items have been highlighted as a priority and are present in the litter stream, they should be recycled at kerbside.

Photo of Anthony Peyton
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My research of the packaging recovery industry (MRFs) has shown that coffee cup are recyclable when recycled via a commingled system. This is because they are generally made from polystyrene (not expanded polystyrene - EPS), are rigid, 3 dimensional & have dimensions greater that 50mm in two dimensions meaning it won't travel to glass.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

I think the global audience should be encouraged to recycle the coffee cup lids separately from the cups in the current recycling system and ensure they are not littered. I recommend that the focus of this challenge should therefore be on other small plastics item that are not captured by the recovery industry including flexible packaging and pieces less that 50mm in 3 dimensions.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Suggest using the rigid, 3D and >50mm in at least one dimension standard to define a recyclable plastic packaging item. If rigid and 3D it will 'bounce' down the bounce conveyor and then travel to the plastic sorters, whereas if flexible or 2D it will likely travel to paper and cause contamination. The 50mm threshold's based on surveys of Australian & New Zealand MRFs and equip suppliers.

Tell us about yourself

I have been researching the recovery and reprocessing industry for over 10 yrs and have developed a series of recyclability thresholds for the various parameters of packaging such as size, shape and materials to determine the recyclability. I'm passionate about the circular economy and hope to help.

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Photo of Anthony Peyton

Hi Kate Rushton . Thanks for referring us to the Catalysing Action report. Page 1 notes problems with "small-format packaging, such as sachets, tear-offs, lids and sweet
wrappers" whilst page 28 includes "Lids, tear-offs, caps, sachets" in the diagram and the, "During this process, all items smaller than 40mm-70mm fall through the mesh in
the screen, end up in the fines fraction, and are sent for energy recovery, incineration or
landfill." Now, whilst many 'lids' and 'caps' are too small to be captured at MRFs, a standard coffee cup lid is >80mm and so it will be large enough to be captured at a MRF. It is on this basis I recommend that the lids be recycled via domestic kerbside or in public place recycling bins. Feedback on this opinion is very much welcome. Thanks. Anthony

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Anthony! I am waiting for confirmation from our materials expert. I have not forgotten about this. Kate

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