The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) is addressing the challenge of recycling disposable coffee cups by creating a collaborative working group.

Called the Polymer Coated Paperboard Working Group (PCPBWG), it seeks to create a circular economy for disposable coffee cups to prevent them from going to landfill.

Participants in the working group include APC members Cleanaway, MPM Marketing, BioPak, Huhtamaki, PAC.NZ and OJI Fibre Solutions.

The group is meeting fortnightly to brainstorm ways to give Australians access to information, schemes and facilities which lead to the recycling of these cups.

Broader input is also being sought from other stakeholders including retailers and MRFs.

By inviting participants from all parts of the supply chain, the working group seeks to address some of the key issues around PCP recycling, including consumer misinformation and infrastructure requirements.

The APC will work with the paper cup supply chain to ensure cups are designed, used, disposed of and collected to maximise rates of recycling in Australia.

The group will publish an issues paper with outcomes, key recommendations and action items in coming weeks.

Currently, up to one billion disposable coffee cups end up in Australian landfill every year, which equates to more than 7000 tonnes of cups, taking over 50 years to decompose. The challenge with these coffee cups (and other Polymer Coated Paperboard (PCP) products such as milk, juice and cream cartons) is that they contain an inner layer of plastic, rendering the cups difficult to recycle with other paperboard products. The use of multiple material types within a single product poses difficulties for some recycling facilities who may struggle with the separation and management of the two recyclable components. In a paper stream, the plastic may be considered a contaminant, and vice versa in a plastic stream.

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