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Less plastic or no plastic? Sorting fact from fiction

Mar 4, 2024 | News

News Less plastic or no plastic? Sorting fact from fiction

​As you enjoy your hot drink, consider for a moment the clever design that has gone into producing your paper cup to help ensure it is robust, leak-proof, the right temperature to touch, displays consumer information, is recyclable or compostable – ensuring quality, convenience and sustainability thinking at every sip. 

But let’s address a common misconception: are paper cups truly plastic-free? The reality is, despite such claims, paper cups for hot drinks are NOT plastic-free and never were. To achieve essential functionality, paper cups are lined with aqueous-lining, PE-lining, or PLA-lining – all of which contain plastic, a fundamental need when producing such cups.

Plastic is a unique material with superb features that, for hot drinks, cannot be achieved with paper alone, so a small amount of plastic needs to be applied to line paper cups to serve its purpose, while considering the impact on our environment.

Manufacturers and suppliers, including importers, often justified their fictional claims of so called ‘plastic-free’ cups by the use of certain plastic-free ‘certification’ – the mythical fabric in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ – enabling claims of 100% plastic-free packaging, which it never was.

With a large increase in packaging being sold under the title of ‘plastic free’ the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) has published guidance last year to help inform the industry, its members and their customers.

According to The European Single Use Plastic Directive (SUPD), plastic is defined as a material containing polymers, but certain exceptions apply for example polymers used as part of glue, adhesives, and inks or paint.

Some companies have stretched and even exploited these exceptions, promoting products with aqueous-linings as ‘plastic-free’. While these are good products, the claim is misleading. At Go-Pak, we prioritise transparency. We won’t mislead you. We are committed to integrity and anti-greenwashing, offering genuine insights and dispelling misconceptions. Paper cups lined with plastic – whether aqueous, PE or PLA-lined – are a superb consumer product with great features and consumer benefits, and we maintain our promise to provide clear, honest information.

Thankfully, there’s been a shift towards more accurate claims, with terms like ‘less-plastic’ gaining traction. It’s crucial to rethink our approach to plastic, acknowledging its benefits while minimising its use where possible. So, the next time you reach for a paper cup, remember it may not be entirely plastic-free, but by being aware, you’re already making a positive impact… And be sure to recycle it!