Rethinking the paper cup — beginning with extrusion process optimization for compostability and recyclability, TAPPI Journal June 2021

Application: With optimal extrusion coating equipment design and process settings, this paper teaches techniques to make some of the more than 50 billion disposable paper cups used in the United States compostable or recyclable using PLA biopolymer barrier coating. 

TAPPI conference proceedings and presentations, technical papers, and publication articles provide technical and management data and solutions on topics covering the Pulp, Paper, Tissue, Corrugated Packaging, Flexible Packaging, Nanotechnology and Converting Industries.

Simply select the quantity, add to your cart and your conference paper, presentation or article will be available for immediate download.

Author: Nicole Whiteman, Andrea Auchter, Andrew Christie, and Michael Prue
Rethinking the paper cup — beginning with extrusion process
ABSTRACT: More than 50 billion disposable paper cups used for cold and hot beverages are sold within the United States each year. Most of the cups are coated with a thin layer of plastic — low density polyethylene (LDPE) — to prevent leaking and staining. While the paper in these cups is both recyclable and compostable, the LDPE coat-ing is neither. In recycling a paper cup, the paper is separated from the plastic lining. The paper is sent to be recycled and the plastic lining is typically sent to landfill. In an industrial composting environment, the paper and lining can be composted together if the lining is made from compostable materials. Coating paper cups with a compostable performance material uniquely allows for used cups to be processed by either recycling or composting, thus creating multiple pathways for these products to flow through a circular economy.A segment of the paper converting industry frequently uses an extrusion grade of polylactic acid (PLA) for zero-waste venues and for municipalities with ordinances for local composting and food service items. The results among these early adopters reveal process inefficiencies that elevate manufacturing costs while increasing scrap and generally lowering output when using PLA for extrusion coating. NatureWorks and Sung An Machinery (SAM) North America researched the extrusion coating process utilizing the incumbent polymer (LDPE) and PLA. The trademarked Ingeo 1102 is a new, compostable, and bio-based PLA grade that is specifically designed for the extrusion coating process. The research team identified the optimum process parameters for new, dedicated PLA extrusion coating lines. The team also identified changes to existing LDPE extrusion lines that processors can make today to improve output.The key finding is that LDPE and PLA are significantly different polymers and that processing them on the same equipment without modification of systems and/or setpoints can be the root cause of inefficiencies. These polymers each have unique processing requirements with inverse responses. Fine tuning existing systems may improve over-all output for the biopolymer without capital investment, and this study showed an increase in line speed of 130% by making these adjustments. However, the researchers found that highest productivity can be achieved by specifying new systems for PLA. A line speed increase to more than 180% and a reduction in coat weight to 8.6 µm (10.6 g/m2 or 6.5 lb/3000 ft2) was achieved in this study. These results show that Ingeo 1102 could be used as a paper coating beyond cups.

New Releases


TAPPI PRESS Catalog eBook 2021

Experience the Power of Publications in the 2021 TAPPI Press Catalog



Kraft Recovery Boilers, Third Edition  

Sponsored by the Recovery Boiler Program R&D Subcommittee of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) and published by TAPPI Press.



Handbook For Pulp and Paper Technologists (The SMOOK Book), Fourth Edition

The best-selling text to introduce the entire technology of pulp and paper manufacture.



Guidelines for Safe Assessment and Operation of Yankee Dryers  

A project of the Yankee Dryer Safety & Reliability Committee.



Check our newest additions.

TAPPI Press offers some of the most in-depth resources and references for the forest products and related industries. 

See More


Available for Purchase – Conference Proceedings

TAPPI maintains a record of key conference papers, presentations, and other conference publications, available for purchase in a variety of formats.

See More