CupCycling™ – turning coffee cups into beautiful paper

Project Description

An estimated 2.5 billion paper cups are used in the UK annually, and the nation’s love of takeaway coffee shows no signs of diminishing. CupCycling™ by James Cropper is a timely solution that reduces the environmental impact of disposable cups, which has been high on the agenda for both government and industry.

Until recently, disposable cups have been unable to be recycled due to their polyethylene lining; however, James Cropper has developed the unique CupCycling™ facility which possesses the technology to separate the two components. The paper fibre is rescued and turned into fine papers, and the polyethylene is recycled by a re-processor.

The lack of a supply chain for the collection of disposable cups has been the main challenge for the initiative.
Therefore, collaboration has been key for success. Together with key partners such as Costa, Selfridges and Veolia, James Cropper has been able to develop the infrastructure and supply chain required to recycle coffee cups on a commercial scale, rescuing millions from landfill and incineration.

Project Purpose

Coffee cups provide a rich source of high quality material; however, until now the majority of them have been unrecyclable. Seeing this waste on a huge scale is what led to investment in and development of the unique CupCycling™ technology by James Cropper. Disposable cups can now be upcycled into a wide range of useful paper products and packaging.

Project Evaluation

CupCycling™ is a working example of the circular economy in action, and shows how collaboration between businesses can lead to successful outcomes for both industry and the environment.

In a truly closed loop collaboration with retailer Selfridges, over 200,000 cups are being saved from landfill per year. The final product contains 20% cup fibre, meaning one large bag will contain the equivalent of one 8oz cup. The bag can then be recycled with household paper waste, giving it a new lease of life.


Phil Wild

James Cropper CEO

The challenge for James Cropper has been the lack of a supply chain for the collection of disposable coffee cups. Our CupCycling™ facility can upcycle 500 million cups per year, but at the moment we’re using a fraction of its capacity. The collection schemes we’ve helped to initiate with a number of retailers have started to generate a considerable volume of material. The secret to a more sustainable future for coffee cups lies in a collective commitment across society – from consumers, retailers, waste management companies, local authorities, to the government and beyond. Investment in improved infrastructure will ensure a more joined-up approach, leading to a greater number of cups being disposed of correctly and given another life.

Main features:

By 2020, James Cropper has the potential to have rescued around 1 billion used cups.


Selfridges, G .F. Smith, Costa, McDonalds UK, Gatwick Airport / DHL, Veolia, Grundons, BPR Group and Metcalfe Farms plus hundreds of local farmers.