Paper firm to recycle Selfridges coffee cups

Steve Adams

Cumbria-based paper manufacturer James Cropper is to reprocess disposable coffee cups collected by environmental solutions provider Veolia from Selfridges’ Oxford Street headquarters in London.

The resulting paper will be used to create the retailer’s iconic yellow shopping bags in a completely unique closed-loop recycling solution.

Once used, disposable cups from the food hall and offices at the department store will be “tipped, flipped and stacked” – a process to ensure any remaining liquid is drained and the lid, sleeve and cup are separated.

Veolia then undertakes a further separation process to guarantee all rogue items have been removed.

The cups are checked for quality, then baled and delivered to paper manufacturer James Cropper for reprocessing at its innovative CupCycling plant.

The disposable cups will be upcycled into paper that will then be converted into the yellow shopping bags, with the final product containing 20% fibre, meaning one large bag will contain the equivalent of one 8oz cup.

The remaining paper fibre will continue to be PEFC certified. The bags will display the CupCycling logo, verifying that the waste fibre has been processed through James Cropper’s unique facility, and after use will be able to be recycled in the standard paper waste stream.

It is estimated that 2.5 billion paper cups are used in the UK each year. Until recently, these were unable to be recycled due to their polyethylene lining. However, James Cropper’s facility, which was opened by the Queen in 2013, possesses the technology to separate the two components.

The paper fibre is rescued and turned into luxury papers and the polyethylene is recycled into products such as plastic tubing and cable wraps.

Steve Adams, managing director of James Cropper, said: “The fibre used to create paper cups is very high quality as only ‘virgin’ pulp is used to satisfy food contact requirements.

“Seeing this go to waste on such a huge scale is what inspired us to develop the technology to separate the two components.

“What we’re left with is material that’s virtually indistinguishable from fresh fibre and can therefore be used to create paper products of the highest quality, such as Selfridges’ bags.

“Our plant has so far recycled more than six million used cups – a figure that with partnerships like those with Selfridges, Veolia and others is expected to continue to rise. And we’re more than prepared to cope with such a boom, with the plant currently having the capacity to recycle 500 million paper cups each year. With CupCycling™, we’re enabling brands to work with us towards a world that’s less wasteful and become part of a movement that has the potential to revolutionise paper cup recycling forever.”

Gavin Graveson, chief operating officer of public and commercial at Veolia UK, said: “This is a great example to show how coffee cups are being reused as part of the circular economy.”