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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
AkzoNobel Creates World's First Fully Compostable, Recyclable Paper Cup

Thanks to the company’s new coatings technology EvCote™ Water Barrier 3000 — made from plant-based oils and recycled PET bottles — companies and consumers can now select a more sustainable cup in which to serve cold drinks. The company says the cups don’t require any modification in the current recycle stream or special handling and are fully compostable and recyclable.

 “This is an industry-changing innovation which could have a significant impact in terms of providing economic and environmental benefits along the value chain. The new coatings technology will help restaurant owners and cup producers to reduce their waste,” explained Conrad Keijzer, AkzoNobel’s Executive Committee member responsible for Performance Coatings.

“There has already been strong interest in our product and we expect it to prompt a major transformation in paper cup production, much like the move from wax to the current Polyethylene process around 40 years ago,” added AB Ghosh, Managing Director, Industrial Coatings.

Roughly 200 billion paper cups are used around the world every year, but none of those currently in use can be recycled without incurring prohibitive costs or greatly diminishing the quality of the paper fiber. That makes this new technology remarkable, because when paper coated with EvCote™ is recycled, the quality of the paper fiber remains intact — which means the paper can be reused in the production of other paper products. In some cases, due to the fibers being strengthened by the coating, paper produced from the waste can even achieve higher strength than the original, uncoated paper.

An additional advantage is that it enables paper mills to recapture 100 percent of the paper waste from the production process that is currently sent to landfill, resulting in significant financial savings; the amount of waste in the paper cup production process is so vast that it could be used to completely wrap the Empire State Building 6,300 times.

“The cost of paper represents the highest single cost for cup makers, so recycling the industrial scrap means that there are both cost and environmental benefits,” added Gil Sherman, Market Development Manager at AkzoNobel’s Paper Coatings business. “With the growth of bio-PET, EvCote™ provides us with options to completely disconnect from the petrol supply chain, because now we can offer our customers a replacement for petroleum-based PE films.”

When we asked how something containing PET could be compostable, Chris Bradford, Marketing Director at AkzoNobel Packaging Coatings, said: “At a high level in the production, we use recycled PET (rPET) as a starting material that is then ‘digested’ or cooked with other materials to produce our resin. During this process, the material is broken down and is no longer a PET plastic.”

Made of up to 95 percent renewable content, EvCote™ barrier coatings protect paper surfaces against water, grease and moisture. They can be used in numerous applications, including corrugated packaging, folding carton board, beverage carrier board and food service packaging.

The development of breakthroughs such as the EvCote™ barrier forms part of AkzoNobel’s Planet Possible approach to sustainability and will contribute to the company’s Human Cities initiative to create cleaner and more liveable cities.

Speaking of solutions to paper cup waste, last summer UK paper company James Cropper announced it had developed technology that enables the recycling of disposable coffee cups into high-quality paper products. Previously, the plastic content of cups made them unsuitable for use in papermaking — disposable cups are made of up to 95 percent high-strength paper with a 5 percent thin coating of polyethylene; James Cropper's recycling technology separates out the plastic, leaving paper pulp that can be used to make paper. After four years of development, the company says it can now not only recycle the fiber content of the cup but also the plastic coating.

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