Packaging Gateway spoke with Frugalpac sales manager George Rumble to find out more about the product and how the company has been affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

JP: How and when was the Frugal Cup created?

GR: The Frugal Cup was invented in response to the fact that 2.5 billion coffee cups made from virgin paper were used every year in the UK but only 1 in 400 cups were actually getting recycled.

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A group of sustainably-minded pioneers set out to do something about this problem and, after securing seven figure investment from environmentally-conscious individuals, set up Frugalpac to create the answer – the Frugal Cup.

It’s the first to use 96% recycled paperboard with a food grade liner and fundamentally different in its construction, allowing it to be pulped in conventional paper recycling. A recent independent Life Cycle Analysis by Intertek found the Frugal Cup has a carbon footprint up to 60% lower and a water footprint up to 74% lower than compostable cups and all other cups using virgin paper.

JP: What is Frugalpac’s mission?

GR: Frugalpac’s mission is to create and supply recycled paper-based products with the lowest carbon footprint that are easily recycled and don’t need to go to landfill. All Frugalpac products are made from at least 90% recycled paper, are easily recyclable again, and have the lowest carbon footprint compared with conventional and compostable packaging.

With the Frugal Cup, we want to eliminate coffee cup waste and lower the carbon footprint and the environmental impact of coffee operators across the UK.

JP: How does Frugal Cup work?

GR: Firstly, the paper aspect. It’s a virgin paperboard that’s chemically treated to withstand liquid, water being the key ingredient in conventional paper recycling. The paper therefore resists pulping and does not ‘break-down’ into pulp in an economical time frame.

Secondly, the plastic. It’s laminated onto the paperboard, creating a composite material that’s difficult to separate, leaving plastic-contaminated paper in the process.

Unlike conventional and compostable cups that use virgin paperboard and PE (Polyethylene) or PLA (Polylactic acid) linings, 96% of the Frugal Cup is made from recycled paper with the remaining 4% a PE (Polyethylene) food grade liner.

The construction of the Frugal Cup allows ease of separation between paper and lining. This means it is the only coffee cup that can get recycled through standard recycling facilities across the UK and, when pulped, leaves the pulp plastic free.

JP: What do you do differently to other sustainable cup businesses?

GR: We make the Frugal Cup from recycled paper with no water proofing chemicals and add the liner after the cup is made. This means we have the lowest carbon footprint, lowest water usage, and the easiest material separation in the standard recycling process. This means Frugal Cup has the lowest impact on the environment and is the most simple product to recycle again.

JP: Has the pandemic affected business and what are your plans for ramping up when it is over?

GR: Naturally, the pandemic has affected all businesses. We endured limited production capacity for a few weeks. We have maintained close contact with our existing customers and developed partnerships with the likes of Boughton’s Coffee House, working with them to offer 50,000 free Frugal Cups to independent coffee shops to help them in these difficult times.

During the lockdown, we also released the most ground-breaking study on takeaway coffee cups since the lack of recycling was highlighted and brought to the attention of the world back in 2016.

JP: Sustainability has taken a back seat during the epidemic. Is Frugal Cup ready to step in and make it a priority again?

GR: Sustainability news has been crowded by the Covid-19 pandemic, but for us, it’s not taken a backseat as we recently featured in The Observer. In fact, we’re in a better position to talk about the sustainability of what we do now than ever before and science favours our innovation. We’ll be out of the blocks working with the most sustainably conscious coffee operators across the UK.

JP: What’s next for the Frugal Cup?

GR: The Frugal Cup will continue to grow, alongside reusable cups, as the most sustainable ‘takeaway’ option when reusables are not suitable or practical.

These are very exciting times for Frugalpac. We’re due to launch a range of other sustainable packaging products over the next few months, including a Frugal Bottle for wine and spirits and a Frugal pot for foods such as noodles, porridge, yoghurt, and ice cream.