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The First Fully Recyclable Coffee Cups Are Being Trialled In the UK

According to its makers, the Frugalpac cup is formed of chemical-free recycled board and lined with a thin plastic liner that “come outs, quite literally, in the wash.”
July 24, 2016, 10:00am
Photo via Flickr user Let Ideas Compete

Back in March, we were given yet another reason to feel bad about walking down the street clutching takeaway coffee cups. Not only did we just spend the best part of five quid to look like the poor man's Olsen twin, we were also harming the environment.

According to a report in The Times, fewer than one in 400 takeaway coffee cups from UK high street chains were being recycled. That's fewer than 3 million of the 2.5 billion cups used last year.


But now, help could be at hand.

Engineer and entrepreneur Martin Myerscough first created a prototype of a recyclable coffee cup in 2014. It has now been fully developed and launched as the Frugalpac, with a commercial trial launching in UK Starbucks last Thursday.

According to the Frugalpac website, the cup is made from "recycled board without any added chemicals" and a "thin plastic liner welded into a cup shape and lightly glued" into the formed paper cup.

READ MORE: This Company Is Turning Coffee Grounds into Coffee Cups

Because the liner is lightly glued in place, when the cup goes through paper recycling mills, it separates from the paper component. As the website states, the "plastic in the cups come out, quite literally, in the wash. The film is intact and is trapped by filters."

The plastic film currently used in disposable coffee cups is almost impossible for regular paper processing plants to separate from the paper, meaning that many disposable cups are simply chucked in landfill. There are only two specialist recycling facilities in the UK that are able to remove the plastic from disposable cups properly.

Starbucks said in a press statement that the new Frugalpac cups are currently in trial stage at several of their UK outlets: "We are very interested in finding out more about the Frugalpac cup and we will be testing it to see if it meets our standards for safety and quality with a view to trialling its recyclability."

Speaking to The Guardian, Myerscough said that it was chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who helped his prototype become a reality: "Hugh's team approached us back in January to find out more about the cup […] We think Frugalpac will make a huge contribution to the solution and we're looking forward to working with the industry to make this happen."

READ MORE: Your Paper Coffee Cup Isn't Actually Recyclable

The fight for sustainable coffee cups forms the topic of Fearnley-Whittingstall's new War on Waste documentary, and has already led to the industry outlining a manifesto on increasing "the recovery and recycling of paper cups." Starbucks and other nationwide coffee chains including Caffe Nero, Pret a Manger, and Costa have all signed up to the pledge.

The last week may have thrown up bonkers caffeinated creations like the blue "latte" but a greener macchiato is something we can definitely get on board with.