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Free for 24 hours - Problems and resolutions in dealing with waste disposable paper cups

Posted on 21. March, 2018.

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Disposable paper cups used for serving coffee, tea and other drinks contain high quality virgin cellulose fibre board (95 wt%) combined with a thin internal polyethylene (PE) coating (5 wt%). They are typically employed where washing and sanitising of reusable cups is awkward, such as in hospitals, in the entertainment and transportation sectors, and for occasional use by large numbers of people in short time intervals which makes reusable cup service practically impossible.

Disposable paper cups were introduced for replacing the unhealthy common drinking cups near public drinking water facilities. However, in the second half of the previous century, a problem has arisen as a result of a superfluous generation of waste disposable paper cups (WDPCs). Considering only the USA, more than 50 billion disposable paper cups are thrown away each year. In mainland P.R. China, approximately 10 billion disposable paper cups are sold annually. An estimated 2.5 billion disposable paper cups are used in the UK each year. Australia’s obsession with coffee has led to an extra 7,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from disposable paper cups. In Taiwan, the chain beverage stores, convenience stores and fast food stores use around 1.5 billion disposable paper cups per year. 

The vast majority of WDPCs are disposed of to landfill or via combustion instead of being recycled. However, these two processes are regarded as environmentally unfriendly because of the generation of toxic gases and contaminative leachate. The most innovation on WDPCs disposal has come in the field of composting, and that is still limited at best. Effective utilisation of WDPCs could not only reduce the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW), but also contribute towards environmental conservation. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a better understanding of WDPCs. This review aims to point out the problems in dealing with WDPCs, and provide updated technical information on the utilisation of WDPCs.

Download the full article, free of charge, using this link: for 24 hours only. The link expires at 5:00 p.m. (GMT) on 22 March 2018. 

Author: Yuhui Ma
Institute of Seawater Desalination and Multipurpose Utilization, State Oceanic Administration


Read the full article in Science Progress, Volume 101, Number 1, March 2018, pp. 1-7.


Image: WDPCs can be used to produce WDPC-derived high quality papers. Credit: James Cropper PLC.