The Recycling Challenge:
How to Capture More Paper Beverage Cups
Plastic-laminated paper beverage cups—the kind you find in your local coffee shop—are a valuable source of high quality paper fibre. Coated with polyethylene to keep liquids from turning the paper soggy, they’re known in the industry as polycoat—the same material that coats juice and milk cartons. It’s been a challenge to capture enough of this laminated paper packaging for economical recycling, because not all municipalities accept paper beverage cups in the Blue Box. Some are destined for the Green Bin—converted into compost—but many are still thrown in the garbage. Tim Hortons and other industry stewards have already created store-capture programs across Canada, and now it’s time to demonstrate the role curbside collection could play in efficiently, effectively and economically recycling this material from households.
The Search for Sustainable Pulp Processors
Until recently, the most effective processing technology to remove the polycoating, de-ink and extract the fibres from paper laminates lived overseas. We needed to find North American processors with the technology and the capacity to handle the materials sustainably and keep the value of the recycling at home.
The Sustainable Solution:
North American Technology Boosts Beverage Waste Management
Our search revealed a number of North American processors who meet our criteria for turning these commingled laminated papers into valuable pulp—including Green Box NA, located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Fox River Fiber, Wisconsin, and West Virginia processor, Resolute Forest Products. In addition to these hydro-pulpers, we collaborated with beverage cup stewards like Tim Hortons, municipalities, collectors and sorters—all interested in expanding Blue Box materials and maximizing their value. The success of the pilot programs in Burlington and the County of Brant now opens the doors for more municipalities to expand the materials they accept in Blue Boxes across Ontario.
A Recycling Commodity for Resale gives new Life to Harry Potter
The recycling process only succeeds if recovered materials can be processed cost-effectively as a commodity for resale at a marketable price. The greater the volume of materials recycled together, the greater the chance of commercial success. Hogwarts fans will be pleased to know that yesterday’s coffee cups can become tomorrow’s Harry Potter books, without the help of magic. Fox River Fiber’s customer, New Leaf Paper, supplied 100 per cent post-consumer recycled, chlorine-free paper to Raincoast Books for the pages of the final three issues of the Canadian edition of the Harry Potter series. Raincoast was the first publisher around the world to use “green” papers for Harry Potter, and now many others do too.
The Beverage Cup Collaborators
Stewardship Ontario’s Blue Box Program—Stewardship Ontario is a not-for-profit organization funded and governed by the industries that make and market the products and packaging materials recycled through the programs it manages–the Blue Box and Orange Drop.
Tim Hortons Inc.—Tim Hortons appeals to a broad range of consumer tastes, with a menu that includes premium coffee, espresso-based hot and cold specialty drinks including lattes, cappuccinos and espresso shots, specialty teas, fruit smoothies, home-style soups, fresh Panini and classic sandwiches, wraps, hot breakfast sandwiches and fresh baked goods, including our trademark donuts. As of December 30th, 2012, Tim Hortons had 4,264 systemwide restaurants, including 3,436 in Canada, 804 in the United States and 24 in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
By 2016, Tim Hortons hopes to increase the number of restaurants diverting paper packaging (including polycoated drink cups) and organic waste by 20 per cent.
The City of Burlington in Halton Region and the County of Brant —Two of Ontario’s 444 municipalities. In October 2012, Halton Region received a Combined Gold Ontario Waste Minimization Award from the Recycling Council of Ontario, in part due to the paper beverage cup pilot program.
Emterra Environmental— A leading provider of integrated recycling resource management and waste disposal solutions to the commercial, industrial and institutional (ICI) sectors and municipalities throughout Canada and the state of Michigan. Emterra, a platinum recipient of the Recycling Council of Ontario’s Waste Minimization Award, collects, processes and markets the full spectrum of packaging and printed paper.
Resolute Forest Products— A global leader in the forest products industry with a diverse range of products, including newsprint, commercial printing papers, market pulp and wood products. Resolute Forest Products owns or operates over 40 pulp and paper mills and wood products facilities in the United States, Canada and South Korea, and power generation assets in Canada. This includes two recycled pulp mills with the capacity to produce 396,000 air-dried metric tonnes of Recycled Bleached Kraft (RBK) pulp made entirely from urban fibre (wastepaper).
Fox River Fiber, Wisconsin— Takes office wastepaper, milk cartons, siliconized paper and other paper bound for landfills and recycles it into clean, useable pulp. The company received the 2011 Business Friend of the Environment Award and has implemented a range of energy-saving strategies and sustainable processes, such as reducing fork truck fuel by 30 per cent and reducing use of energy and water per tonne of pulp produced.
Green Box NA, Green Bay, Wisconsin— A 100 per cent reclamation system with the industry’s lowest water usage per ton of white and brown tissue products produced with zero waste water discharge and 100 per cent reclamation/sustainability certification. The Green Box can reprocess all fast food waste materials with zero landfill, and produces process gas, which is more than enough to operate the facility. The excess is turned into electricity and sold to the grid. The total fiber recycled in the Green Box process saves 1,100,000 trees annually.
We are always interested in hearing about new ideas to improve recycling. Contact us to talk about your green innovations and forward-thinking recycling technologies.