The Detpak RecycleMe System provides recyclable cups alongside collection and guaranteed recycling logistics.
Since the ABC TV series War on Waste drew attention to the more than one billion coffee cups sent to landfill every year, consumers, cafés, and companies have taken large strides to reduce single-use cup waste.
One such company is Australian owned packaging manufacturer Detpak, which initiated a rollout of its RecycleMe System with customers in November 2018, providing a solution for takeaway cups.
Detpak General Manager of Marketing and Innovation Tom Lunn says RecycleMe innovates coffee cup recycling in two ways.
“One, the cup itself has a unique lining which means it can be recycled in a normal paper recycling plant,” Tom tells BeanScene.
“Second, we’ve established a collection system with our [waste collection] partner Shred-X, which guarantees that every cup and lid collected gets recycled.”
Tom says working with Shred-X provides an extra level of reassurance to Detpak and its partners that RecycleMe is successful from end to end.
“People are pleased to have an assurance and guarantee that cups collected are recycled,” Tom says. “They are keen to do the right thing and they want to understand how it works practically in a café.”
Tom says there is still some confusion over whether it is better to compost or recycle coffee cups.
“Compostable coffee cups need to go to a commercial composting facility in order to have effective conditions to break down, and most often are being sent to landfill. Whereas a cup that is recycled can live again and contribute to a circular economy,” he says. “The longer we keep materials at their highest value and use, the better.
“Composting still has a place, but we should be striving toward recycling as the ultimate solution.”
Detpak spent more than three years looking into new linings that it could use in its recyclable cups.
“We came across this coating out of the United States,” Tom says.
“The advantage is it can run through standard paper pulping equipment and doesn’t require any additional investment at the recycling plant.”
To ensure the cups do get recycled, Shred-X collects the cups and lids from specially designed collection points. The stations allow consumers to separate the cups, lids, and liquids at the time they are disposed to minimise contamination.
Shred-X shreds and delivers the cups straight to paper mills, where they are recycled into paper products.
“[Detpak] made a cup that is not only recyclable but can be blended in with our current collections,” Shred-X General Manager Van Karas says.
Shred-X has a network of trucks across Australia, with more than 50,000 individual collection sites as part of their existing secure document destruction service.
“[Detpak] came to us, knowing our ability with logistics and the collection situation,” Van says. “We’re used to going into sites like where coffee is sold, so we’re able to get in there, collect the waste, and take it away without any hassle to the venue owner.”
Shred-X Sales Manager Renee Pryor says RecycleMe has seen a positive reaction, appreciating the transparency of the system.
“There has been a really positive response with people appreciating the chance to recycle their takeaway cup and lid, rather than have it end up in landfill,” Renee says.
What’s more, Van says the system is easy to explain to consumers.
“You just have to look at the imagery – a cup being turned to paper – to understand that’s exactly what happens. [Consumers] learn that and ask how to get on board,” he says.
In February, RecycleMe received an endorsement from leading environmental foundation Planet Ark for its transparency and holistic thinking.
“[The endorsement is] an extension of our guarantee,” Detpak’s Tom says. “People trust the brand and research of Planet Ark – and they’ve endorsed this system. It has also confirmed for us that what we’ve created is a valid solution.”
Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko says with RecycleMe, Detpak has thought of every link in the chain.
“It’s a genuinely transparent system that considers every element,” Paul says.
“As part of our endorsement, an independent audit occurs annually to ensure the recycling promise is met. When you take the effort of putting the cup in a collection station, you can be sure it’s going to a recycling plant to be turned into new paper, or plastic products in the case of the lids.”
Paul says in order to gain an exclusive Planet Ark endorsement, every detail must be considered.
“How will the product be separated? Where will the material go? Who are the commercial partners? It’s a question of seeing who is going to do all the bits in the chain and making sure there is no stone unturned,” he says.
Paul says systems like RecycleMe are important to maintain a sustainable industry.
“Think of all the effort that’s gone into making a coffee cup. Growing the tree, turning it into paper, using it once and throwing it in a hole in the ground seems ludicrous,” he says. “Capturing and keeping these resources in use for as long as possible is what creating a circular economy is about.”
Coffee roasters who have been early to support the RecycleMe movement include Veneziano Coffee Roasters, Seven Miles Coffee Roasters, Axil Coffee Roasters, Seven Seeds, Tim Adams Specialty Coffee, and Genovese Coffee.
“There are lots of coffee and food service brands starting to adopt RecycleMe. The foothold is growing very quickly,” Detpak’s Tom says.
“The majority of coffee is actually consumed in business areas, so our next move is to introduce RecycleMe to big corporations, large banks, and institutions that have cafés in the vicinity.
“Then, we’re looking at closed environments like stadiums, and finally, we’ll be tackling public collection points.”
Planet Ark’s Paul says collaboration with the RecycleMe System will help it reach its full potential.
“A system like this is only successful if there’s lots of collection points. People who decide that are cafés, roasters, and corporations implementing it,” he says.
This article appears in FULL in the April edition of BeanScene Magazine. Subscribe HERE.