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Using Recycled Content – Supply Chain Project

Project Update (October 2021)

Single use coffee cups successfully transformed into waterproof building materials

Funded by the Welsh Government, WRAP Cymru has brought together Nextek and the UK’s leading composite decking manufacturer, Ecodek, to find a way to use single use waste coffee cups together with difficult to recycle materials, to manufacture waterproof building materials.

Although coffee cups are made largely of paper, disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic that is tightly bonded to the paper making the cups waterproof and therefore able to contain liquid. As a result of the composite structure, these cups cannot be recycled at standard paper recycling plants and must instead be taken to special facilities, of which very few exist in the UK.

The partnership has potentially transformed the collection of single use coffee cups into a viable business proposition, by turning what was formerly considered a problematic waste into a valuable raw material.

Through the project, decking boards have been successfully produced using from 10% to 30% plastic/paper and difficult to recycle multilayer PP and LDPE film, making the use of recycled materials a viable alternative to the disposal of these single-use packaging products as waste. Ecodek are now working with their product development team to explore what other products can be made from the new material.

When the paper coffee cups are combined with difficult to recycle multilayer films, the resulting waterproof building materials are strong, long-lasting and lightweight. The products have the potential to be used for multiple applications, from waterproof decking and outdoor furniture to structurally strong building materials for use on a much bigger scale. Furthermore, it can be recycled back into new building materials at its end of life.

With around 500,000 cups littered on a daily basis in the UK, and only 0.25% recycled, there is a huge need for change to reduce the damage on our environment.

Whilst this is not the first time that used coffee cups have been given a new life, it could be a game changer as the project has proven the ability to recycle a substantial volume of single use waste material, turning them into sustainable building materials.

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