2019 SPC Innovator Award: Innovation in Recovery finalist
Sustana: Cup-to-Cup Recycling Demonstration Project
Sustana’s repulping technology is able to process paper cups with conventional polymer coatings, and they have challenged the conventional view of hot cup recyclability by participating in a multi-stakeholder collaboration along with Starbucks, WestRock, and Seda that saw used hot cups successfully recycled into new hot cups. Additionally, Sustana has partnered with Alpine Waste & Recycling and the Foodservice Packaging Institute to include paper cups in the list of acceptable items in Denver’s recycling collection program, proving that paper cups shouldn’t carry a blanket designation of being unrecyclable.
Why it’s important:
Sustana deserves credit for including paper cups at a time when recycling markets are providing a surplus of more easily recyclable paper products. While many paper recyclers are constricting their lists of acceptable products, Sustana is actively broadening their list, sending a signal that they are willing to take on challenges in paper recycling that many other recycled paper product manufacturers will not.
“The Innovation that Finally Proved that Coffee Cup Recycling is Possible”
What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?
Billions of paper takeaway cups end up in landfills every year due to a lack of collection and separation services, and because their plastic coating prevents them from being accepted by many recycling facilities. Sustana set out to change that.
The Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop project – an innovative collaboration between Sustana, their supply chain partners, and Starbucks – demonstrated that coffee cups can be recycled and turned into new cups in a sustainable way. Starbucks, Sustana, WestRock and Seda proved that if collection systems exist, this method is a sustainable alternative to landfilling — with both environmental and economic benefits.
Sustana’s pivotal role in the project was transforming the old cups into clean, 100% recycled, FDA-compliant fiber in an economically viable manner. These fibers were then used to make new cups. Sustana has continuously invested in equipment and technology to recycle single-use coffee cups, efficiently, effectively and at scale, by separating the interior plastic lining of the cups.
Other examples of this technology in action include Sustana’s recent partnership with Alpine Waste & Recycling and the Foodservice Packaging Institute, which made it possible for paper cups to be recycled in Denver. Sustana also collected the cups used at the SPC Advance 2018, turning them into clean, recycled fibers.
Sustana is committed to supplying recycled materials to its partners, while also recovering even more byproducts and side streams for reuse. These innovations in recovery make the case for sustainable manufacturing, and have the potential to be replicated and affect systemic change.