Out of an estimated 3 billion paper coffee cups used every single year in the UK less than 0.25 per cent are currently recycled. However this could be about to change with a new breakthrough in recycling, which would allow these takeaway cups to be turned in a ‘durable’ resin dramatically reducing waste.
Currently a vast majority of the coffee cups used in the UK end up in landfills or energy-from-waste incinerators due to them being unrecyclable. In an attempt to reduce this the Environment Minister suggested a new tax should be placed on coffee cups. However there is a call for the cups to be made more widely recyclable. Currently the cups are made from paper fibre and an additional plastic layer for waterproofing. This makes them difficult to recycle, as each layer must be separated from the other. Therefore they are not usually accepted in household recycling bins and some high street cups have faced warns about symbols on their cups suggesting they are easily recyclable.
Professors Dr Edward Kosior and Dr John Mitchell along with Nextek and Ashortwalk have developed a resin called NextCupCycle, which combines high quality paper and plastic to make a strong material, which could be used in numerous products. The designers said ‘We come across a lot of packing where the materials are so tightly combined that if you try to separate them you spend a lot of time and energy and neither component comes out very pure. So we recognise that rather than spending time pulling them apart we should be looking at what happens when we combine them together.’ The unique technology collects coffee cups and adds extra plastic to their paper fibres to make the resin. Currently coffee cups are mainly made from paper but the new resin would make the ratio 50:50 of paper to plastic making the material much stronger and easily malleable. Even by-products of coffee cups such as lids and straws can be made from the mix.
Currently the new resin products are being trialled with products being launched into a selection of coffee shops in London. Futures plans also include developing a recycling plant entirely committed to producing NextCupRecycle resin.
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