Sonoco adds paper cup recycling at Hartsville, South Carolina, mill

Additional testing is underway with the aim of expanding cup recycling to all Sonoco mills that use residential mixed paper.

a recycling bin spilling over with paper cups

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Sonoco has announced it is accepting paper cups in bales of mixed paper to be used as furnish for its Hartsville, South Carolina, paperboard mill.

Previously, 10 other Sonoco paper mills in the U.S. validated their acceptance of rigid paper cans in bales of mixed paper coming from residential material recovery facilities (MRFs). This new announcement extends acceptance to paper cups at the Hartsville mill. Additional testing is underway with the aim of expanding cup recycling to all Sonoco mills that use residential mixed paper, the company says.

“Sonoco is uniquely positioned as a leading recycler, paper mill operator and paper packaging converter to help push the industry to look towards future innovations and grow end-of-life solutions across the entire paper value chain,” says Elizabeth Rhue, vice president of global environmental, sustainability, and centralized technology. “After validating that our mills could recycle EnviroCan paper containers in residential mixed paper, we decided to further demonstrate the ability to recycle other similar polycoated fiber-based containers through the postconsumer mixed paper stream.”

“This is one of many steps Sonoco is taking to further our commitment to responsible material sourcing at our manufacturing operations while building material circularity into the broader industry,” Rhue says. “If a consumer recycles a paper cup or an EnviroCan paper container, and it is sorted into the mixed paper stream, the products can now be sent to our Hartsville mill to be turned into a number of new fiber products, including new EnviroCan containers.”

Paper cups are made with materials that are highly desirable to paper mills because of its ability to improve new products with recycled fiber,” says Natha Dempsey, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), Falls Church, Virginia. “Those paper mills, including Sonoco, who are a part of the Paper Cup Alliance have committed to supporting the industry in building the infrastructure and developing the practices that make paper?the?best choice for anyone who cares about the future of our planet.”

In late 2021, a number of paper mills signed a declaration of acceptance stating they would commit to increase recycling of paper cups, denouncing previous notions that the polymer coating found on the cups makes them unsuitable for recycling. Organizations Essity, Stockholm, Sweden; GP Pro, Atlanta; Graphic Packaging International, Atlanta; Great Lakes Tissue Co., Cheboygan, Michigan; ND Paper, Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois; Pratt Industries, Conyers, Georgia; Sustana Fiber, De Pere, Wisconsin; and WestRock, Atlanta. The group represents approximately 75 percent of mixed paper demand in the U.S. and Canada, according to the FPI.

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