McDonald’s turns used coffee cups into brochures and luxury packaging

McDonald's paper cups are being recycled at scale for the first time in the UK thanks to a new partnership with British papermaker James Cropper and recycling firm Simply Cups, the trio announced on Thursday.

Paper cups are collected from McDonald’s and then baled by Simply Cups – the UK’s only paper cup recovery and recycling scheme – before being delivered to James Cropper for reprocessing. The reclaimed fibre can then be used in everything from brochures and stationery to designer gift boxes.

The recycling scheme – a UK first – has been rolled out across 150 of McDonald’s 1,250 UK restaurants so far.

McDonald’s UK sustainability consultant Helen McFarlane said: “Paper cups constitute about 30% of our packaging waste and this is a great opportunity to ensure that the quality fibre used in making those cups gets another life.

“We have recently started to introduce recycling stations in our restaurants to allow customers to separate paper cups, and we’re eager to see what this trial with James Cropper and Simply Cups will look like, hopefully helping set up the infrastructure for others to use in future.”

Closing loops

Around 2.5 billion paper cups are used in the UK every year, with the majority going unrecycled due to a polyethylene coating which cannot be recycled amongst ordinary household waste. However, the reclaimed fibre facility at James Cropper uses a method which separates the paper from the plastic coating and produces no wastage whatsoever.

Ninety percent of the cup waste is converted back into FSC-certified fibre for paper production and the remaining 10% – which is plastic – is repurposed into other products such as garden furniture. The James Cropper factory currently processes the equivalent of 10 million paper cups per week from the off cuts of paper cup manufacturers.

Richard Burnett, market development manager at James Cropper, said: “The partnership with McDonald’s has been nearly two years in the making and signifies an important step towards recycling used paper cups and, ultimately, reducing waste going to landfill.

“By collaborating with McDonald’s, we’re working towards an effective scheme that can recoup as many used paper cups as possible, which can then go back into the supply chain.”

Representatives from James Cropper and McDonalds were in attendance at the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) Environment Seminar in Birmingham today, where Jeremy Paxman told delegates he is “sick to the back teeth” of Britain’s rising litter problem and called on businesses to collaborate for a mass behaviour change campaign to curb the issue.

Meanwhile, Simply Cups already has cup recycling agreements in place with Costa Coffee, the John Lewis Partnership and Baxter Storey.

Brad Allen

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