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Paper Company Gears Up to Recycle 500 Million Coffee Cups

A paper maker that claims to use the world’s first process for recycling disposable coffee cups has set itself the target of putting through 500 million a year. 

          The James Cropper company in Kendal in the Lake District, which employs the term upcycling to reflect the transformation of discarded material into useful goods, has processed 20 million cups since September 2017 but is geared up for the 500 million figure. 

          James Cropper receives the discards from waste management companies, which collect them from coffee shop chains, including Starbucks, McDonald’s and Costa—which started a scheme in January for recycling all its used takeaway cups—and various hubs such as airports and office blocks. 

          The target represents about a fifth of the 2.5 billion takeaway cups that are thrown away in Britain annually. At present most of them wind up in landfill sites. 

          The James Cropper process extracts the paper fiber from the cups and turns it into the high-quality packaging paper in which it specializes as an alternative to plastic. The packaging is recyclable, but it biodegrades without harming the environment if it is disposed of.  

          The remaining plastic content goes to waste management companies for recycling. 

          Phil Wild, chief executive of James Cropper, said: “We’ve developed these processes over a number of years because we recognise the need for brands to consider their packaging design and explore plastic-free alternatives. 

          “We believe a truly sustainable approach is not just about using renewable materials and committing them to responsible lower-impact manufacture, but is also about ensuring packaging is easy for consumers to recycle.” 

          The Business in the Community charity, which promotes responsible manufacturing and trading, is holding a summit in November as part of its commitment to a collaborative plan to tackle the UK’s growing waste problem. 

          As a member, James Cropper is likely to present its latest project at the meeting, said marketing director Richard Bracewell. 

          Gudrun Cartwright, environment director at Business in the Community, emphasized: “There needs to be a change in mindset in how we handle waste and source materials for our products and packaging, and we have a responsibility to do something different. 

          “To achieve this, government and business need to come together to lead by example.

          “This includes showcasing businesses like James Cropper, bringing waste back into value chains and unpicking the challenges that lie in the way of creating change at scale.” 

          James Cropper attracted royal interest in March when Prince Charles visited the company’s plant and attended a Business in the Community roundtable on methods of creating value from waste.