Mike Mueller, senior manager of product marketing at WestRockv

he believes there's a misunderstanding about poly-coated paperboard's recyclability right now in the industry


General recycling today

The popular belief is that separating the plastic lining from the cups is difficult or expensive and/or contaminated by coffee. Hunsberger, however, asserts that recycling cups is no more expensive than recycling other types of paper. Furthermore, it makes no difference if they are put to good use or not. Sustana has been recycling other covered food containers, such as milk cartons, before the Starbucks test. Coffee cups, compared to other paper products, produce better-quality fiber.

Difficult to operate efficiently

If a mill cannot accurately forecast how many cups it will receive, it will be difficult to operate efficiently. However, if a mill anticipates receiving a steady stream of a specific number of cups, it won't be a problem. If you add it consistently to your process, you don't have to adjust it; if it behaves differently, you can execute it. If you don't, you'll need to adapt.


Also, local recyclers must be willing to accept the cups, which is rare these days. Recology, a San Francisco-based recycling company, began taking cups in 2017 as part of its recycling program. The company believes that because of its reputation for "clean" bales of materials, paper brokers are ready to accept paper coffee cups in the mix because it uses sophisticated machinery to sort its recycling. Some places, such as Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C., recycle cups as well. For example, Denver just shipped its first cargo to Sustana of roughly 88,000 paper coffee cups, which is the latest city to start recycling paper coffee cups.


How Tim Horton's used coffee cups to close the loop

Canadians know 99 out of every 100 times the Tim Hortons brand, according to senior regulatory affairs manager Carol Patterson.

In the cup-to-tray program in Nova Scotia, additional Tim Hortons stores across Canada rapidly followed suit.


The restaurant chain was motivated to include more environmentally friendly practices like cup recycling into its operations because of the widespread customer loyalty and wide recognition it enjoys as a market leader. The answer Tim Hortons' corporate headquarters, restaurant owners, participating employees, and various community partners all worked together on the cup-to-tray project to create a new way to recycle, transport, and regenerate Tim Hortons products.


A lot of work went into the project, including years of preparation, community involvement, and buy-in from consumers. Final results were cost-neutral closed-loop systems that underlined the sustainability goals of the Tim Hortons corporation. What's involved Recycling units have been installed at Tim Horton's restaurants in Nova Scotia for the collection of hot beverage cups and lids as well as napkins and trays. Reusable cup and tray recycling was promoted to customers who purchased hot beverages.


To pique customer attention, employees donned T-shirts bearing the slogan "In my previous life, I was a cup." It's from here that non-sorted cups and lids are delivered to Scotia Recycling Limited, where they are sorted and compressed into new recycled items. A Canadian-owned paper product firm, CKF, in Nova Scotia, receives and prepares the bales of cups and trays before returning them to Tim Hortons locations in the form of new trays.