Selfridges turns coffee cups into shopping bags

The high-end British department store has teamed up with the paper manufacturer James Cropper and the waste company Veolia to produce its iconic yellow shopping bags from disposable coffee cups in what the partners are calling a ‘world first’ closed-loop recycling solution.

Some 2.5 billion paper cups are used in the UK each year, but they have proven difficult to recycle due to their polyethylene lining.

Enter the paper manufacturer James Cropper, which developed a technology capable of separating the two components: the paper fibre is reused and turned into luxury paper, while the polyethylene is recycled into products such as plastic tubing and cable valves.

Its innovative CupCycling facility now has a big name partner after the high-end British department store Selfridges announced that they would team up to produce its iconic yellow shopping bags from disposable coffee cups used at its Oxford Street headquarters and store.

The cups will be collected by the waste company Veolia from the food hall and offices at Selfridges and then “tipped, flipped and stacked” to ensure all liquid is drained and that lids and sleeves are removed.

They will then be delivered to James Crooper for reprocessing at its CupCycling plant. According to the paper manufacturer, the final product will contain 20 per cent cup fibre, which means that one large shopping bag will contain the equivalent of one 8oz cup.

As the fibre used to create paper cups is very high quality to satisfy stringent food contact requirements, the material that is left after the reprocessing step is “virtually indistinguishable from fresh fibre and can therefore be used to create paper products of the highest quality, such as Selfridges bags”, said James Cropper’s managing director Steven Adams.

Chris Brant, director of retail projects and FM at Selfridges, said: “With our partners James Cropper and Veolia, we can take coffee cups, a waste product of ours, and transform them into our yellow kraft bag, thereby closing the loop on that particular waste stream.

Selfridges is the first retailer to upcycle its cups in this way and believes its customers will appreciate the story behind the bag as they become ever more aware of global waste issues.

James Cropper’s plant has recycled more than 6 million used cups so far, but it has an actual capacity to recycle 500 million paper cups each year.

“With Cupcycling, we’re enabling brands to work with us towards a world that’s less wasteful and become part of a movement that has the potential to revolutionise paper cup recycling forever,” added Adams.


Image credit: Michael, flickr/Creative Commons

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