recycling paper cups


Did you know that there is now the capacity to recycle every paper hot cup on the UK high street? But how and where?


Made from high-quality paper fibre from sustainably managed forestry the paper cups we manufacture at Benders can and are being recycled. So why are so many cups ending their journey in landfill when the fibre can be reused up to 7 times?


The key challenge the industry faces is ensuring every paper cup is taken on the right journey. From the forest where the materials are sourced, all the way to the designated recycling facility, all paper cups must follow a set process to be effectively recycled.


The responsibility of ensuring each paper cup makes it through this process falls with the whole paper cup supply chain including the consumer. To give you an idea, here’s the journey of a sustainable paper cup and the steps that need to be taken to ensure it is recycled effectively.


1: The sustainable forest


All of our paper cups begin their journey in a sustainably managed forestry. This means that for every tree felled to create our paperboard, three to four saplings are planted in its place. To make our industry economically viable and sustainable, this process is absolutely key which is why we only use PEFC certified board.


2: The Manufacturer


The fibre board is then transported to our factory; we are a responsible best practice manufacturer with full chain of custody certification and zero waste to landfill policy. This means that 99% of all our waste is recycled and 1% is transformed into energy.


Each paper cup base is dated and coded so that the paper cups can be traced back to the sustainable forest that it originated from.


3: The retailer


From coffee shops and food chains, to vending operators, the paper cups are transported to a range of different retailers across Europe, ready for the consumer to enjoy their hot drink.


4: The consumer


The paper cups then reach consumers who can enjoy a hot drink on the go. The way the paper cup is then disposed of is a pivotal part of the process. If thrown in a general waste bin or normal paper recycling container, it’s likely that the paper cup will end its journey in landfill.


However, if disposed of responsibly and in a designated bin, the paper cup will continue on to a paper mill where it will be recycled and start a new journey. So how can consumers ensure that paper cups are fed back into this system?


In the UK, there are now more than 4,500 used paper cup collection points and ACE UK has over 400 Bring Banks over more than 115 local authorities where paper cups can be sustainably disposed of. The paper cup will then enter back into the cycle and continue onto the next stage of the process.


5: Waste Management Collections


An increasing number of waste management companies are now engaging in paper cup collection, growing the infrastructure required, alongside the 4500 collection points that already exist; this will ultimately lead to used paper cups being widely recyclable. This is part of our drive to ensure that by 2020 the majority of the UK will have access to designated paper cup recycling points.


6: Waste Management Handling


To achieve the highest possible quality of used paper cups collected they will be segregated at source once they have been used. This will reduce the possibility of contamination from other forms of waste and most notable food contact. Once collected they will then be bulked up into full load deliveries to be taken to the paper mills.


7: Fibre Recovery Facility


Once at the Paper Mill the collected cups will either be processed in a batch recycling process or a continuous cycle, there are currently 4 paper mills in the UK re-pulping all the paper cups collected from the high street, there is adequate UK resource to manage all of these cups.


8: Paperboard is reprocessed


The recycled paper cup fibre enjoys a variety of second life uses, ranging from writing paper to paper bags and more. And of course when these products reach the end of life they intern can be recycled, so another journey begins.


To sum up


Paper cups can and are being recycled throughout the UK, organisations such as the PCRRG and PCA continuously look to increase the number of paper cup collection points along with researching alternative materials that could prove to become more easily recycled within the current waste infrastructure.


To make paper cup recycling as widespread as possible, manufacturers like us along with other members of the PCRRG are focused on developing collection capability in partnership with waste management companies.


Consumer communication is also now a key priority in improving awareness and understanding of paper cup recycling. It is always vital to keep your consumers updated with the ongoing developments both within the environment and waste management infrastructure.


If these necessary steps continue to be taken, we can help to guarantee that paper cups enter and remain in this circular economy, avoiding landfill.

About the Author

Hannah Jones
Marketing Executive- Benders Paper Cups
Find me on Linkedin


Please note that this information was uploaded on 07/01/2019- due to the ongoing changes within governmental policy surrounding recycling in the UK the infrastructure and information within this article may differ depending on your origin and the date of which you are reading this, for the latest updates please visit our environmental page