Recycling the Unrecyclable

James Cropper master the recycling of 'single use' disposable paper cups

Until James Cropper mastered methods for their recycling, the plastic content of cups made them unsuitable for use in papermaking. In the UK alone, an estimated 2.5 billion paper cups go to landfill. James Cropper’s recycling technology separates out the plastic incorporated in the cups leaving paper pulp that can be used in the highest quality papers.

A new £5 million facility for extracting the valuable paper fibres of commonly used drinks and food packaging was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in July 2013, while visiting James Cropper’s HQ in the English Lake District alongside Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal.

Disposable cups are made up of between 90 – 95% high strength paper with a 5% thin coating of polyethylene (plastic). After four years of development, James Cropper can now not only recycle the fibre content in cup waste but also recycle the plastic coating, giving a sustainable solution to the global problem of disposable cup waste.

The process involves softening the cup waste in a warmed solution, separating the plastic coating from the fibre. The plastic is skimmed off, pulverised and recycled, leaving water and pulp. Impurities are filtered out leaving high grade pulp suitable for use in luxury papers and packaging materials.

Mark Cropper, Chairman of James Cropper plc, said: “Cup waste is a rich source of high grade pulp fibre, but until now the plastic content made this product a contaminant in paper recycling . Our technology changes that and also addresses a major environmental waste problem and accompanying legislation. We are greatly honoured that Her Majesty The Queen and The Princess Royal are joining us on the occasion of our new plant opening. There is no more fitting way to celebrate this pioneering development”

Phil Wild, CEO of James Cropper plc added: “This is the latest in a long history of innovation that has kept James Cropper ahead of the game for nearly 170 years and six generations. We were one of the world’s first producers of coloured papers, today the preferred choice for packaging of numerous global luxury brands, from fashion houses and champagne producers, such as Krug, to smartphone giants and department stores like Selfridges. We were also a pioneer in the production of paper-like non-woven materials from carbon and other fibres.”

In October 2013, James Cropper returned from the Luxepack Monaco trade fair with the organiser’s annual ‘In Green’ Award, recognising the most innovative, eco-friendly paper production development of 2013.

The prestigious award, decided by a panel of six judges including Michel Fontaine, President of the French National Packaging Council and Sandrine Noel, Environment Manager of luxury saddlery brand, Louis Vuitton, recognised the development of this ground breaking method of recycling paper cups.

Photography of HM The Queen: Northwest Evening Mail