Coffee cups are made of virgin (new) paper and are provided with a barrier to make them leak-free. The open seam inside the cups makes it impossible to work with recycled paper because of the direct food contact.
There are several types of coffee cup coatings available. The most commonly used are PE and PLA. We believe that these cups can be made more sustainable in the following ways:
1) Reducing the amount of plastic in the cups
2) Recycle coffee cups into plastic-free high-quality pulp
3) Remove plastic from the coffee cups
4) Make the coffee cups plastic-free + use recycled cardboard
To make paper coffee cups leak-free, a certain thickness of the plastic barrier is required. This is often between 13-20 grams/m2. Ideally, you would like to make this layer thinner or no layer at al.
As indicated earlier, we see many posts from companies claiming to have a plastic-free cup. When taking a closer look, often a different type of polymer is used, with which the cup is made leak-free. For example, a latex or artificial rubber. An example is the cup of a Dutch company we met on a trade show, that claimed their cup is plastic free, but after we did a lab test, it proved to have an ethylene acrylic copolymer on the inside.
When the cup is tossed away in the bin after usage, microplastics still end up in the environment. Even if the cup has a Flustix certification. After all, it is not plastic free.
We have carried out various tests with different types of coatings, including test with coatings with a Flustix certificate. We tested to recycle coffee cups into a 100% plastic-free pulp and tested samples that are developed with as a sustainable plastic-free coffee cup. One of the tests has been carried out with an interesting Dutch startup that is developing a 100% plastic-free and polymer-free coating.
The development process requires a lot of testing and we can do that in our own paper cup factory in India. Every step forward is 1 and both recycling and further development of plastic free cups are paths that we follow.
If you would like to discuss the development of sustainable disposables and sustainable coffee cups, please contact me or my colleagues at Halma Solutions