A joint effort between Smurfit Kappa and Valpak has resulted in a freestanding cardboard cup recycling box designed to contain empty beverage containers in a fully recyclable pack for transportation to waste collectors.

The team at Valpak was looking for a packaging solution that eliminated the need for packing by a third party. They required a custom-designed box that enabled cups to be stacked inside for recycling. The brief included two different sizes, and Valpak also needed dividers to create cells for a specific number of cups inside the box.

In 2018, Valpak partnered with Costa Coffee to develop a new national initiative, The National Cup Recycling Scheme, which aims to significantly increase the collection and recycling of paper cups across the UK.

The scheme sees major retailers working together to create a streamlined system for collecting and recycling hot and cold paper cups – covering a multitude of beverages from coffee to milkshakes. Smurfit Kappa says that in the UK, there are now enough recycling facilities accepting PE-lined paper cups to recycle every paper cup on the market (over 2.5 billion cups).

This pioneering scheme also aims to make the collection of cups commercially attractive for waste collectors to include as part of their recycling offering to customers. The National Cup Recycling Scheme collaborates with businesses across diverse sectors, tailoring cup recycling solutions that encompass internal education, strategic bin placement, consumer behaviour change, and engagement with waste collectors.

One problem for the project is managing how it collects the paper cups when, as an on-the-go item, they end up in a whole host of places such as train stations, universities, offices, and domestic bins.

The National Cup Recycling Scheme wanted to create the Cup Box as a recycling solution for small to medium-sized businesses across the UK. While their main purpose was to facilitate the recycling of these cups, Valpak also wanted to use the opportunity to ensure the new packaging aligned with the National Cup Recycling Scheme’s branding to help raise customer awareness.

Valpak came to the team at Smurfit Kappa Leeds with this unique set of problems. With their logistics company also keen to post the product straight out, this meant that a secondary product to house the cup recycling box components for transportation would need to make up part of the design.

Smurfit Kappa Leeds designed a freestanding cup recycling box, with dividers to create nine internal compartments to stack the cups inside. They also designed a lid with holes that lined up with each compartment and a separate layer pad, so that when the box is filled the layer pad can be clicked underneath the lid to seal the holes ready to be sent for recycling.

Their designer also created a folder that all components would fit inside so that when the logistics company received an order, they could simply label up the package and send it straight out, eliminating any packing work to be carried out by a third party. This box will also be recyclable via the paper and cardboard waste stream by the waste collector upon delivery of the full box.

Another important component that the Smurfit Kappa team built in is a QR code that links back to the National Cup Recycling Scheme in a bid to make it simple for customers to arrange collection of the box.

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