A group of prominent paper mills and end markets across North America signed a declaration of acceptance and a commitment to increasing recycling of paper cups, including Essity, GP PRO, Graphic Packaging International, Great Lakes Tissue Company, ND Paper, Pratt Industries, Sustana Fiber and WestRock.
Organizations representing 75% of mixed paper demand (by quantity consumed) in the U.S. and Canada are accepting paper cups. Seven companies with 25 paper mills actively accept residential mixed paper bales (ISRI grade 54) with paper cups included, while three companies with five facilities currently accept paper cups when included with aseptic and gable top cartons in carton bales (ISRI grade 52).
Paper cups have a coating on the inside (for hot drink cups) or on both sides (for cold drink cups) that provides a liquid barrier to the fiber. Although the coating has long been seen as a reason not to recycle paper cups, several companies have conducted tests and determined that the coating does not present an obstacle to recycling the cups in their facilities. The mills use pulping systems that separate the coatings from the fiber, recovering the fiber with a 70% to 90% yield.
“Empty paper cups are recyclable, and they provide high-quality fiber, which can then be recycled into new products like cereal cartons, facial tissue boxes and new paper cups,” said Michael Doss, president and CEO of Graphic Packaging International. “Graphic Packaging strongly supports recycling of paper cups and is encouraged by the proactive participation of the industry to collect them and increase the circularity of paper cups.”
Not all mills are readily equipped to separate the plastic coating found on paper cups. Communities and MRFs are encouraged to connect directly with their end markets and local mills to check if they will accept bales containing paper cups.
The mill statement and an interactive map, along with other resources on paper cup recycling can be found on www.recyclepapercups.org.
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