CPI Press Statement: CPI Response to BBC Article on Recyclability of Pizza Boxes and Paper Coffee Cups

20 March 2024

The article by BBC titled ‘What can and can't be recycled from your food shop?’ was first published in June 2023 and has been republished as updated in March 2024.  However, the latest version still contains misleading information regarding the recyclability of pizza boxes and paper coffee cups.

The UK’s Paper-based Industries are disappointed that despite issuing a response to the original article, the BBC has again failed to give an accurate picture of the recyclability of these items, and in reaction to this article the industry is reiterating its standpoint as follows:

Pizza boxes

BBC article: But all paper and card has to be clean of food residue. If your cardboard or paper has grease on it – unavoidable in pizza or fish and chip boxes – put it in the bin.

CPI response: Stains or marks from contact with food do not prevent pizza boxes from being recycled. The Paper Industry’s position is clear, as outlined in the CPI Design for Recyclability Guidelines. Paper containing stains or even traces of food, which are unavoidable in collection of post-consumer material and do not fully soak the paper, is acceptable. Surface staining, for example stains due to grease and spots of the toppings in delivery boxes for pizza and sandwich packs, and traces such as breadcrumbs in bags, sugar, salt, flour or food in emptied boxes or bags can be tolerated. Food waste sitting in the pack (free moving food), food attached to the surface (3D residue), and traces and stains that fully soak the paper, is regarded as unacceptable. This advice is in line with Paper and board — Guidance on the application of Term 2.2 Prohibited materials of BS EN 643:2014 which addresses the presence of food contamination and has been developed to assist the users of BS EN 643:2014 to better understand the term “prohibited materials”.

Coffee cups

BBC article: Paper takeaway cups are not recyclable, though some coffee shops have switched to biodegradable or compostable versions.

CPI response: Paper coffee cups are a potential source of high-quality fibre and are currently recycled. These products are usually disposed of ‘away from home’ and due to their mixed material composition, they need to be collected separately from other fibre-based material. This ensures they are directed to the appropriate facility with the necessary equipment to be reprocessed efficiently and ensure maximum recovery of fibre. The UK’s Paper-based Industries are supportive of the increasing number of paper cup recycling points across the UK which provide separate collections of used coffee cups and arrange for them to be recycled. The UK has sufficient reprocessing capacity to recycle all the paper coffee cups used in the UK. Finally, a mandatory cup takeback scheme has been proposed as part of Defra's Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reforms, and the UK’s Paper-based Industries are keen to work with all parties to ensure that the maximum amount of this valuable fibre is recovered.

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