BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND — Polystyrene vending machine cups are discovering a whole new life in Britain as pens, pencils, desk top accessories, coffee machine components and even coffee tables.
The art of not only rescuing those ubiquitous occupants of the office waste bin, but also marketing them as new and useful products is being mastered by Save-a-Cup Recycling Co. Ltd.
The nonprofit joint venture based at High Wycombe, England, has grown from small beginnings in 1992 to offer a national cup-collection service today.
Now, it has set its sights on recovering as many as 1 billion cups a year, or 25 percent of the cup total in Britain, by the year 2002. The firm now collects about 213 million vending cups a year.
The firm has set up a system with vending and food-service firms that collect the waste cups when they deliver cups to participating customers. Save-a-Cup reprocesses the waste into PS pellets, then ships the raw material to manufacturers of new goods.
Save-a-Cup already has won the plaudits of British government ministers for the project. Shareholders include PS cup manufacturers and exporters into Britain, resin producers and vending and food-service firms.
The organization's objective is to recycle vending cups and produce a range of nonfood-contact products from post-consumer waste. It is concentrating on discovering markets for useful products created from waste plastic.
``It's all a matter of niche marketing,'' said Managing Director Tony Minnis.
At Pakex 98, held March 30-April 2 in Birmingham, the firm showed off recycled products and practical marketable ideas.
Minnis pointed to a colorful coffee table made from compressed PS vending cup flakes, and a selection of pencils, pens and desktop accessories.
The coffee table, he said, is still crude — a prototype with good potential. A clothing retailer on London's Oxford Street is using recycled PS for changing booths, he said. There also has been great interest in using recycled cups to make counters for a chain of British coffee shops.
To make the collection system more efficient, Save-a-Cup has placed about 200 office-sized cup grinders at participating sites.