More than a cupful of expertise

With us since the 1870s, the paper coffee cup helps millions of people around the world kick-start their day. But behind what may seem like a mundane and functional item is years of research and development, as well as intense collaboration between a variety of stakeholders. With consumers and big business alike increasingly seeking ways to reduce their impact on the environment, what part can everyone’s favorite way to start the day play?

Päivi Jokinen, Head of Stora Enso’s Cup Board segment, lifts the lid on the story behind your morning cup of coffee and the drive to help make the circular economy a reality.

More than a cupful of expertise

Familiar to millions – and 100% recyclable

Modern paper cup manufacturing is light years away from the hand-made process used when disposable cups were first introduced in the late 1800s. Today’s converting machines run faster than the eye can see, churning out 330 cups a minute – every single one perfectly formed and ready to be filled with your morning latte. In the UK alone, seven million disposable coffee cups are used every day – that’s 2.5 billion cups every year.

We believe that everything that is made from fossil-based material today can be made from a tree tomorrow.

“At Stora Enso our aim is to develop new products and services based on wood and other renewable materials,” says Päivi Jokinen. “We believe that everything that is made from fossil-based material today can be made from a tree tomorrow. Coffee cups made from paper board are hygienic and safe – and are already 100% recyclable.”

A taste of the future

Behind the humble disposable paper coffee cup is a wealth of expertise and careful coordination between various stakeholder groups. “As a paperboard producer, it is very important for us to maintain an active dialog with both cup converters and brand owners, and our development agenda has to be flexible so that we can respond to changes in the marketplace faster than the competition,” Jokinen says.

Paper cups offer fantastic marketing opportunities for brands.

As well as a convenient way to consume take-away beverages, paper cups also offer fantastic marketing opportunities for brands, especially with the rise of smart-packaging technologies that can be used in all manner of consumer engagement campaigns.

“While the main purpose of single-use cups is to provide a hygienic and safe product for consumers, the cup surface provides a great marketing platform for brand owners This is where excellent print quality enabled by the right surface smoothness is important,” Jokinen says. “In addition, three-dimensional shapes and eye-catching prints, together with QR codes and other smart branding features, are on the rise and serve as differentiators.”

Beyond the branding opportunities enabled by advances in print and materials technology, there is the ongoing quest for a cup that will make sure your drink stays hot but your fingers not. “Another area for development is insulation, where a double-wall cup with an air gap between the two board layers makes sure that consumers will not burn their fingers,” Jokinen points out.

Modern machines can produce


cups / minute

In the UK


disposable cups are used / day

Finland is the #1 coffee drinker with

12 kg

of beans consumed / person / year*


Give your cup a new lease on life

While fiber-based packaging is 100% recyclable, ensuring that the materials can be properly processed and reused requires the supporting recycling infrastructure to be in place.

Recycled fiber can be used to manufacture new fiber-based products, such as testliner, white-lined-chipboard, core board, and book covers.

“Recycling facilities need specialized equipment to re-pulp polymer or plastic-coated packaging,” Jokinen explains. “Right now there are more than 100 mills that can recycle plastic-coated packaging worldwide. Once the fibers have been processed and any surplus plastics screened out and removed, the resulting material can be used to manufacture new fiber-based products, such as testliner, white-lined-chipboard, core board, and book covers.”

When it comes to tackling the recyclability challenge, the UK is showing a great example with an approach where stakeholders from the entire value chain are working together to find a solution.

“Stora Enso has been closely involved in this work together with major brand owners (McDonalds, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero, Starbucks, and Nestle) as well as key converters (Huhtamaki, Seda, and Benders) as part of the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG),” says Jokinen. The group exists to develop collection and recycling opportunities for paper cups and identify and support solutions that sustainably transform used paper cups into a valuable resource.

In October 2017, organizations from across the paper cup supply chain signed an agreement with the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE UK) to accelerate recycling of PE-lined paper cups in the UK. The ultimate goal is to deliver a long-term, nationwide paper cup recycling solution that complements and builds on the recycling activities achieved so far by the industry.

Your portable paper pal isn’t going anywhere

The demand for takeaway hot drinks is never going to go away; many of us couldn’t do without that early-morning kick on the way to work. Of course, this means that the demand for paper cups isn’t going anywhere either. The onus, then, is on the industry and the whole value chain to ensure that we do everything possible to make 100% recyclability a global reality.

Time for tea

Päivi, you’re an avid tea drinker so what is the demand now for takeaway tea?

Takeaway tea is a new trend and many tea shops already offer a takeaway option, especially in Asia. Tea comes in many different flavors and consistencies and sets its own demands on cups. A new take-away tea chain is starting up soon in Finland as well – take a look at their website:

About Stora Enso

Helsinki, Finland
Area of expertise
Leading provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden constructions and paper globally.
As an employer
Approximately 26,000 employees in over 30 countries
Annual production capacities
5.9 million tons of chemical pulp, 5.4 million tons of paper, 4.7 million tons of board, 1.4 billion square meters of corrugated packaging and 5.6 million cubic meters of sawn wood products

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