In the UK alone, around 2.5 billion coffee cups are used and thrown away every single year. As of 2017, less than one in 400, or 0.25%, are getting recycled.
Conventional takeaway coffee cups aren’t easily recycled, as they are made from plastic-coated virgin paperboard which doesn’t break down in the standard recycling process.
And this is exactly what UK-based company Frugalpac is trying to tackle.
“Our Frugal Cup is the UK’s first fully recyclable coffee cup that’s made of 100% recycled paper,” Frugalpac’s CEO Malcolm Waugh says.
The company sells to businesses, with a box of 500 cups retailing for around £50 ($64). Sizes come in 80z, 120z, and 160z, and cups come in various designs.
Although the packaging market is a competitive one, Waugh says when it comes to the disposable cup market, there are numerous manufacturers making misleading claims about their products.
“At present, there are only a few recycling plants in the UK able to process virgin paper-based PE cups. Compostable and biodegradable require industrial composting which is rare in the UK, so many cups end up as landfill.
“We’re leading the way in terms of a truly sustainable cup. The Frugal Cup is a simple solution which can be taken up by any waste management facilities that recycle paper.”
Founded in 2016, 52-year-old Waugh and his team officially launched the product to market earlier this year.
“Following the discovery that paper coffee cups are not easily recyclable, we set about creating one that is,” Waugh explains. “Noticing a shift towards a circular economy, where products are recycled and reused within the manufacturing process, crucially reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, we decided to tackle the UK’s current waste issue head-on.”
In early 2019, the company opened a factory in Wrexham and has just introduced two new products. The Frugal Lid is made of pulp-molded paper using sugarcane waste and sustainable wood fiber, and “enables operators to move away from polystyrene lids”. The Frugal Cup Linerless focuses on being sourced entirely from sustainable forests.
“It is specially treated with a unique coating which makes it suitable for hot and cold drinks while still allowing the pulp to break down during the standard paper recycling process.”
Unlike other standard disposable cups, Frugal’s is made from recycled paperboard, with no waterproofing chemicals. This means that the cup’s food-grade liner separates easily during recycling. Both elements can be recycled through separate streams, meaning the cup can be throw in the recycling bin at home or in the street.
“The Frugal Cup is a truly sustainable alternative to current cups on the market,” Waugh adds. “There’s a common misconception that disposable cups are easily recycled and that they can be thrown away in any recycling bin for processing. That leads to around 30,000 tons of coffee cup waste per year.”
Currently, the company employs 23 people at its head office and manufacturing plant, and is already developing two new solutions for packing liquids.
“Interest in the Frugal Cup has seen significant growth over the last year, with more and more outlets joining the coffee cup revolution and raising awareness of the cups in their towns and cities,” Waugh continues. “We anticipate this momentum to continue as consumers demand transparency from brands and outlets they purchase from.”