Georgia-Pacific announced in September 14 that it is now accepting mixed paper bales that contain single-use polyethylene (PE)-coated paper cups at its recycled paper mills in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Muskogee, Oklahoma. The development follows two years of partnership with the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) and collaboration with the NextGen Consortium , a global initiative led by Closed Loop Partners with founding partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, to help open opportunities for paper cup recycling.
PE coatings, along with any remaining liquid and food left behind from use, have historically left single-use paper cups out of the recovery and recycling process. GP, though, has proven through its extensive re-pulping trials that the Green Bay and Muskogee mills can effectively recapture valuable cup fiber from paper cups while screening out PE-coatings and reuse the fiber to make toilet tissue, napkins and paper towels.
“As single-use paper cups have grown in popularity in recent years so, too, has paper cup waste. As a leading manufacturer of paper foodservice products, we continually look for ways to consume fewer resources as part of our longer-term strategy to identify solutions that benefit society. Accepting mixed paper bales containing PE-coated cups at our Green Bay and Muskogee mills is a significant step in this direction,” said John Mulcahy, vice president of sustainability for Georgia-Pacific, which manufactures the Dixie® brand of paper cups.
Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, believes GP’s new repulping capability will greatly benefit the foodservice industry and further advance the industry’s environmental stewardship. “We are heartened to see Georgia-Pacific accelerate paper cup recycling through its acceptance of cups in mixed paper bales. This acceptance will also benefit new non-polyethylene next generation cups, marking an important step forward for the industry as a whole, and we hope even more mills will follow this lead. GP’s actions reinforce the value of the materials in paper cups and build critical markets for recycled materials. As the managing partner of the NextGen Consortium, we continue to work with leaders like GP to engage, educate, and collaborate with stakeholders across the cup value chain in order to keep valuable materials in play,” she said.
Beyond its current repulping efforts, GP is also collaborating with the NextGen Consortium to trial at its mills next generation paper cups that have replaced the PE-coating with materials that can be recycled and/or composted. As founding partners of the NextGen Consortium and strong advocates of reducing single-use paper cup waste, McDonald’s and Starbucks are supportive of ongoing collaboration with GP and encouraged by the company’s current re-repulping efforts.
“Increasing and improving the recyclability of cups is a vital part of our work within the NextGen Consortium. We are taking a meaningful step forward with Georgia-Pacific toward our goal of reducing paper cup waste. We’re excited by this progress and look forward to our continued partnership with organizations that support our vision of a resource-positive future,” said Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at Starbucks.
Marion Gross, chief supply chain officer, North America with McDonald’s added, “Recovering, recycling, and reusing the valuable materials in our cups is an important part of our sustainability ambition and our work with the NextGen Consortium. By accepting and reprocessing single-use cups, Georgia-Pacific is not only enhancing recycling pathways but also generating a supply pipeline of recycled content critical to positively impacting the environment and achieving our goals.”
With its Green Bay and Muskogee mills now engaged, GP is working with FPI to expand and accelerate single-use PE-coated paper cup acceptance in curbside recycling programs in an effort to increase the number of households that can recycle the paper cups. As the voice of the foodservice packaging industry, FPI is committed to reducing the impact of its products on the environment and to advancing recycling and composting. “We are thrilled to work with Georgia-Pacific in its effort to recover and reuse PE-coated paper cups, and we are excited to partner with new communities that previously didn’t have the capability to recycle them,” said Natha Dempsey, president of FPI.