The current paper cups are already recyclable. It doesn't mean that the cup cannot be improved or made with other proposals as we have seen in the innovation platform. If the outcome of the challenge maintains a fiber based cup, it could be still recyclable. Fiber is always recoverable and will be always interesting to recycle it.
Our proposal seeks to recycle the paper cup into Napkins, another single use disposable product used quite a lot in restaurants or cafe stores either on site or on the go. Besides, the recovered cup once transformed into a Napkin, it becomes fully compostable. So a pretty circular solution that cover the sustainability of different products used in out of home rather than only the paper cup. It introduces the recycled napkin concept to the stores.
To recycle a logistic infrastructure must be set. This is already done worldwide with the waste paper.
Composition of the paper cups (aprox): 80% fibers and 20% plastic (polyethylene)
Industrially the plastic needs to be separated from the fiber. This is not difficult to be done in the right facilities. One of the key points is how to handle the tremendous volume of plastics. In our solution, once separated, the plastic can be compacted and sent for further recycling or thermal valorization.
The fiber stream can then be recycled. This fiber used to be a high quality fiber with no inks or dies on it. Nonetheless if the cup is printed directly on the paper (the fiber), undergoing simple recycling and deinking techniques it can fully and sustainably be transformed into a recycled paper products in our proposal to transform it into Napkins. Why is it so? Because napkins are another product extensively used in this kind of stores and it can be printed with an icon to communicate the global campaign. If the company calls for another solutions the fiber can also be transform in toilet paper, hand towels…
In most of the stores/restaurants the napkins are virgin pulp based and we think that it is more sustainable to use recycled paper due to the napkin won't be recycled anymore. So switching from virgin pulp napkins to high quality recycled ones is more ecological. Circular economy, clearly.
Moreover the napkin would be fully compostable.
Thus, it could be said that a paper cup could be transformed into napkins, recycled plastic or produce energy, and that the napkins could then be composted, so that, used to harvest city gardens that would on their turn clean the city's air up.
A 50 cc paper cup can produce 30 grams of recycled polyethylene and up to 6 paper Napkins, similar to the 19,5 g virgin pulp napkin that could be in use now in McDonald's stores and with the same quality and functionality. The recycled and compostable could produce approximately 50 grams of organic compost per paper cup.
That means that the paper cups consumed in the stores would be sufficient to produce all the needed Napkins and then transformed into tons of compost.
Assuming an annual consumption of 50 Million cups in the USA, the recovery proposal would produce:
- 1500 tons of recycled polyethylene
- 300 Millions of Napkins, worth over 5800 tons of recycled tissue paper
- 2500 tones, at least, of organic compost, able to treat more than 150 hectares of agricultural land, more if one thinks about city parks and gardens.
Our proposal is fully compatible with other that try to improve the sustainability of the cup using other fiber sources or less plastic, and also with others trying to change or improve the collection of the paper cups or the collection logistics.
Not as the main scope of the proposal, it gives certain advices on the eco-design of the paper cup:
- Fiber used could also be recycled
- Lid could be produced with the same paper/plastic composite as the paper cup
- Paper straws, already exist, and could be also recycled. They could be implemented
Delivery or return system
- Nothing changes in terms of functionality, quality or reliability, nor in the amount or type of work in the stores for the delivery of the goods.
- The give back, on the shop or other public relevant spots, such as parks or office buildings could integrate a compacting bin to recover the cups, or other systems, the cups just need to be collected apart with the lid and the straw and then sent with existing water paper recovery companies to the recycling facility
- The napkin quality, delivery system... won't change either, only its sustainability would be enhanced
-The napkins, if collected then after use with the organic waste, could be easily composted so closing a pretty nice circle
So keep it or improve it but above all recycle it!! and remember
1 cup --> 6 Napkins, plus recycled plastic and compost!!
Gomà-Camps SAU can implement the solution in southern Europe but plenty of players can easily replicate it all over the world.