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Burger King tests newly designed cups that could set new standard for fast-food packaging: 'We can mitigate the negative … impacts'

It's a fascinating glimpse into how fast-food chains can use new materials to move closer to a circular economy.

It's a fascinating glimpse into how fast-food chains can use new materials to move closer to a circular economy.

Photo Credit: Sulapac

Among the challenges presented with recycling materials effectively and efficiently is fast-food packaging, which often features a waxy coating that is difficult to process.

That's why a restaurant and catering company based in Finland has been looking at alternatives, taking advantage of a new type of fast-food packaging that can be reused and recycled.

Restel is using Sulapac material for cups in two Burger King outlets, according to Renewable Carbon News. Customers who are given the reusable cups can return them after use at designated areas in the restaurants. It's said one cup can be used 200 times, and they are then sent to Sulapac when they reach the end of their lifespan, where they will be recycled.

According to Sulapac head of product Heidi Peltola, Sulapac is 100% biobased and can be industrially composted. That means it can break down naturally and avoid the risk of creating microplastics.

"All our materials can be digested by naturally occurring microbes," Peltola said in a statement. "Hence, Sulapac materials do not accumulate in the food chain, unlike conventional plastic."

Indeed, microplastics have been found in nearly every location in the globe. In the oceans, they can accumulate in the bodies of marine animals. The microplastics can then potentially enter the human body through the consumption of seafood.

A study published in the Toxicological Sciences journal, and summarized by the Guardian, found microplastics in all 23 human testicles and 47 dog testicles the scientists examined. The researchers predicted this could be linked to declining sperm counts.

Elsewhere, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found microplastics in samples of artery plaque, noting that the presence of this material in the human bloodstream could increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death, as The Conversation detailed. 

Therefore, anything we can do to reduce the use of plastic in our daily lives is extremely important for human health. 

Anna Koskinen, Restel's sustainability and communications manager, noted: "By collaborating with Sulapac we can mitigate the negative climate and environmental impacts related to single-use and oil-based plastic while advancing the circular bioeconomy."

While Restel's solution is promising, it will undergo a two-month trial period at the restaurants before being rolled out in full. There is also the question of how this could translate to larger markets, like the United States. Higher quantities of the recyclable cups might be more difficult to process if the appropriate technology isn't available. 

But for now, it's a fascinating glimpse into how fast-food chains can use new materials to move closer to a circular economy. For Burger King, it might also provide insight into how embracing more planet-friendly practices could boost customer loyalty

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