As Craig Reucassel's War on Waste series tackles the issue of disposable paper cups this week on the ABC, a Californian campaigner is preparing to offer Australians a new solution.
As Reucassel will point out to consumers in the next episode tonight, traditional paper cups are too difficult to recycle because of their interior plastic coating.
Specialised equipment needs to be put in place to remove the plastic, but even then, the process is burdensome and costly, and ultimately, the economics aren't in place to incentivise recyclers to even try to recycle paper cups.
Will Lorenzi, the president of California-based Smart Planet Technologies (SPT), believes he has a solution to this widespread problem in the form of the R3 cup, which is engineered for recyclability.
He's already been working to effect change by way of the cup in the US and the UK, and is now discussing his options with vendors in Australia.
The cup is currently in use in a variety of coffee houses in the US, and will be commercially available in the UK starting July 2017, Lorenzi says.
In Australia, a company called Closed Loop Environmental Solutions, which has been in talks with Lorenzi, is also currently investigating an economically feasible collection and recycling program called Simply Cups.
“SPT is finalising a partnership with Simply Cups, Australia’s recently launched coffee cup recycling program, to ensure the cups are collected for recycling,” Closed Loop sales and marketing manager Brendan Lee said.
The R3 cup from SPT has an interior coating called EarthCoating that works just as well as polyethylene in forming the cup, according to Lorenzi.
It looks the same for the consumer experience, but for the recycler the cup recycles as if there is no coating at all.
“This allows all of premium fibres to be recycled efficiently and profitably by traditional residential recycling without specialised equipment, and that's the best way to solve this problem,” Lorenzi says.
"Change the coating, and the paper cup becomes a valuable material to recycle."