New White Paper Examines the State of Paper Cup Recycling

Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) is pleased to announce the recent publication of a new white paper entitled The State of Paper Cup Recycling. This comprehensive paper examines the evolving landscape of paper cup recovery efforts including recycling challenges, technical aspects of material sorting and processing, and end markets utilizing recovered cups.

“Paper cups can be recycled when there are three elements present: demand from an end market buyer; proper sorting at the material recovery facility (MRF); and public education to recycle cups through residential programs,” said Natha Dempsey, president of FPI. “Increasingly, these factors are coming together to create recovery pathways for paper cups. The new white paper, The State of Paper Cup Recycling, provides an in-depth analysis of where we are and where we are headed.”

Authored by Moore & Associates, this comprehensive paper delves into the evolving landscape of paper cup recovery efforts including recycling challenges, technical aspects of material sorting and processing, and end markets utilizing recovered cups.

Today, 28 North American mills and five domestic end markets accept paper cups for recycling, which is 75% of mixed paper demand in the U.S. and Canada.

“Very few mills accepted paper cups prior to 2018, and many recycling programs explicitly excluded them,” said Bill Moore, president of Moore & Associates. “However, through research, testing and education, more North American mills are accepting paper cups as they are a good source of high quality solid bleached sulfate (SBS) white fibers similar to other paper-based polycoated food packaging, like ice cream tubs.”

The white paper also provides a deeper look at the sorting flow of paper cups in MRFs, describes the processing aspects of polycoated paper cups, addresses concerns surrounding paper cup recyclability, and contains helpful references including MRF case studies and lists of end markets and brokers who trade in recovered fiber bales containing paper cups.

Since 2011, FPI has been bringing together an alliance of restaurants, foodservice packaging industry leaders and recycling experts to better understand how the paper cup could become more widely recycled. Recently, FPI worked with a group of paper mills and end markets who signed a declaration of acceptance and a commitment to increase end market acceptance of paper cups. Additionally, FPI’s Community Partnership Program has helped 15 recycling programs, with a collective total of approximately 4 million households, successfully add paper cups to their accepted materials lists.

The State of Paper Cup Recycling is available for free download on FPI’s website: The State of Paper Cup Recycling.

FPI will host a webinar on March 3, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. ET. focusing on the increasing acceptance of paper cups as seen from the perspectives of industry representatives along the value chain. For more information on the webinar and to register, visit: The State of Paper Cup Recycling Webinar.

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