British paper manufacturer James Cropper [has] unveiled a new way to deal with the environmental burden of the coffee cup. In response to the particular problem of the mixed material within, the company has developed a process to separate the paper content of a cup from its plastic lining and opened a new plant to specifically manage reclaimed fiber in Kendal, England.
Cropper’s process involves softening the cup in a warm solution. The cup then separates into its component paper and plastic parts. The plastic is sloughed away and recycled. Meanwhile, the leftover water and pulp are examined for impurities, which are then extracted. What remains is high-quality pulp that Cropper hopes to use in upscale packaging.
The company estimates that this may salvage 40 percent of the 2.5 billion cups that are pitched each year in the United Kingdom. Most likely, the coffee cups could be disposed of in mixed recycling collections, separated out, and then transported to Cropper’s facility.
An additional boon of this new process is that part of the energy intensive paper-making process can now be circumvented by Cropper’s re-use of preexisting pulp materials. In a conversation with Bloomberg, chairman Mark Cropper noted, “Rather than having to buy pulp from overseas, we built this plant to have our own supply.”