Plastic cup recycling firm launched

Polystyrene cup recycling has reached commercial scale with the launch of the Save-a-Cup Recycling Company. Funded by polymer and cup producers and the vending and food service industry, the venture is aiming to recycle 9% of vending cup sales by the end of 1994.

The scheme was proposed last September (ENDS Report 200, p 14) following a pilot study in London which was sponsored by polystyrene producer Dow Chemical and vending company Autobar. The final version remains much the same, although the initial recycling target has been cut back. It had been hoped that the scheme would be recovering 10% of the 20,000 tonnes of annual cup sales by the start of 1994. Now the target has shifted to the end of that year.

About 180 sites in and around London are already participating, recycling three tonnes of vending cups per week. Birmingham will come on stream in May, followed by Manchester in July, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby in September, Glasgow and Edinburgh in November and Newcastle next January. Before moving into other areas, Save-a-Cup may "need to find other methods to contain the costs of collection," says Managing Director Tony Minnis.

Collection and administration costs are close to £190 per tonne. Part of this is covered by an "environmental administration charge" of 15p per 1,000 cups on most thin-walled cup producers. The fee equates to £38 per tonne. Sales of recycled material at £150 per tonne cover the remaining costs. Last September, when the economics were originally calculated, the price was £170 per tonne.

Markets for the recycled material have been guaranteed for the first year by Save-a-Cup shareholders Dow, Elf Atochem, Huntsman Chemical and Linpac Plastics. After this the scheme may have to stand on its own.

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