New innovation from Stora Enso minimizes plastic in paper cups to help food service brands meet sustainability targets

UltraThinPE Tec™ is a new innovation from Stora Enso that significantly reduces the share of plastic coating in foodservice board (FSB) and applications such as single-use paper cups. With the help of UltraThinPE Tec™, Stora Enso has developed the thinnest polymer coating for FSB products on the market. This achievement allows for paper cup designs with less than 5% plastic – an important step in helping packaging converters, brand-owners, and retailers meet their plastics reduction targets. The technology is presently used in the production of UltraThinPE coatings for Stora Enso’s Cupforma product range for paper cups.

Paperboard material used for producing paper cups requires a barrier – commonly made from plastic – that offers both protection against liquid and functionality in converting. UltraThinPE Tec™ greatly improves the sustainability of paper cups by yielding the lowest plastic coating weight available on the market and reducing the overall carbon footprint of the finished product.

UltraThinPE Tec™ reduces plastic coating weight by up to 40% when compared to Cupforma Natura products with 15 g/m2 PE (polyethylene) or renewable PE Green coatings (bio-based polyethylene), therefore enabling a share of greater than 95% paperboard. Achieving a plastic share of less than 5% helps brand-owners meet the composite threshold for packaging in some European countries. As a result, UltraThinPE Tec™ coatings can significantly reduce extended producer responsibility (EPR) fees by as much as 75% in countries such as Germany.

FSB products with UltraThinPE Tec™ coatings can be recycled with paper or board depending on local regulations, collection, and sorting infrastructure. As one-sided, minimal-plastic coatings, they can also ease the recycling of FSB in standard recycling mills when combined with other paper and board packaging.

“By knowing the intended end-use of the product, like paper cups that will hold liquid for a short time, we can design coatings that use the absolute minimum material necessary. We do this by testing and verifying the exact amount needed for the end-use. UltraThinPE Tec™ enables brand-owners to further meet their sustainability targets, especially concerning plastics reduction, while maintaining the highest product hygiene and safety standards as in the case of paper cups.” – Tuomas Puonti, VP, Head of Business Line LPB Fresh & FSB.

For converters, Cupforma products with UltraThinPE Tec™ coatings perform similarly to materials with traditional polymer coatings. It offers excellent barrier performance, heat sealability, and fast implementation time. UltraThinPE Tec™ coatings are produced at Stora Enso’s Imatra site in Finland and Forshaga site in Sweden.

Cupforma by Stora Enso is a renewable, low-carbon material for paper cups and is optimized for recycling. It includes Cupforma Natura for foodservice end-uses, like hot cups, and Cupforma Special for end-uses like ice cream cups and ice cream packaging. Cupforma Natura is recognized as the most material-efficient product range for paper cups available and yields more cups from each tree.