Americans generate more waste than people in any other country in the world. Containers and packaging make up the largest portion, or about 30 percent, of the municipal solid waste we generate. That’s the equivalent of 4.5 pounds per person per day, and only slightly more than a third of it is recycled or composted.

After China’s recent decision to stop accepting the vast majority of the waste it once took from the United States for processing, a growing amount of recyclable material is once again ending up in the landfill. This has prompted an increasingly sophisticated and urgent conversation about the environmental damage associated with containers and packaging.

Last year, Sustana Fiber participated in a pilot program with Starbucks in which their Fox River facility processed 25 million Starbucks coffee cups into high-quality fiber that was then used to make new Starbucks cups. The project was Sustana Fiber’s way of demonstrating that a coffee cup can be turned back into a coffee cup. In fact, we process food and beverage containers such as coffee cups every day into high-quality fiber that can be used to make a broad range of products, such as tissue, printing and writing paper and food packaging.

The challenge with recycling paper cups is that not all municipalities accept them, something Sustana Fiber is working to change. They are a member of the Foodservice Packaging Initiative (FPI), a trade association that has several initiatives aimed at expanding recycling rates. The FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance, which counts Sustana Fiber among its core companies, brings together the entire paper cup and container supply chain, from raw material supplier through operators, to voluntarily take responsibility for their packaging and ensure that more of it gets recycled and composted. They also work directly with materials recovery facilities to educate them about how to sort paper cups.

It’s important to prove that paper cup recycling is indeed possible, but it’s also increasingly important to look at how that cup was created in the first place. That’s why Sustana Fiber supplied fiber for use in a cup stock paperboard that contains up to 32 percent post-consumer recycled fiber.

Previously, the industry standard for post-consumer recycled content in paper cups was only about 10 percent. The cup stock used Sustana Fiber’s EnviroLife – a 100-percent, post-consumer recycled fiber that is FDA-compliant for use in direct food contact packaging under all conditions of use. Post-consumer recycled fiber embodies the circular economy in that it’s manufactured from recycled products that have served a purpose for end-users, then sold to the market where it again serves a useful purpose.

Chairman and CEO, Fabian de Armas, said it well: “This is an industry milestone that we are proud to be a part of. Thanks to Sustana Fiber’s unique product, we are raising the bar for what’s possible in the circular economy, especially at a particularly critical time for the recycling industry, and for sustainable business as a whole.”

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