PFF looks to help deal with coffee cup pollution

A packaging company is looking to change the way disposable cups are manufactured, as coffee chains come under pressure to adopt more environmentally- friendly practices.

New boss: Kenton Robbins, who took over as managing director of PFF last year, hopes to increase turnover to £50m. Picture: Tony Johnson

A report by MPs last week called for a tax on disposable coffee cups in a bid to crack down on waste. Coffee shops could face a 25p ‘latte levy’ unless recycling improves.

Keighley-based PFF, however, is currently working on a solution that would improve the recyclability of disposable coffee cups.

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Kenton Robbins, who only recently took on the role of managing director at the packaging manufacturer, says that there is “absolutely” more that can be done to improve recyclability in the industry.

MPs are proposing a latte levy to cut down on waste. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Disposable coffee cup waste is a “major issue” says Mr Robbins, but believes the firm may have a solution.

“We do supply coffee chains at the moment but not with paper cups,” he said.

The firm makes plastic lids, which it says “is the only bit that is recyclable” in the majority of disposable coffee cups. Mr Robbins said: “When plastics are used correctly they’re incredibly recyclable, 80 per cent of all our product is recycled. We buy and recycle products and that forms the centre of all our packaging.”

To make disposable coffee cups waterproof, the card is usually fused with polyethylene – a material which can be difficult to separate during the recycling process. The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year.

MPs are proposing a latte levy to cut down on waste. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Last week the Environmental Audit Committee said all disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023 and they should be banned if the target is not met.

The committee also called on the Government to introduce a 25p charge on disposable cups, with the money raised going into improve reprocessing facilities.

Mr Robbins said: “It is a major issue but we think we have a solution that we are working on at the moment.

“If you take certain products and you apply them in a specific way, you can actually use them again.”

The managing director of PFF remained tight-lipped on the technical details of the disposable cup that they’re working on but is confident of revealing a product in the near future.

“We’re pretty sure that within the next two to three months we’ll have a solution in the marketplace,” he said.

Mr Robbins joined Keighley-based PFF at the tail end of last year. Prior to that he was running Hudson James Human Capital in Leeds.

The biggest challenge, Mr Robbins envisages in 2018, is recruitment.

“Trying to find a localised workforce with the right skill level is still very, very challenging,” he said.

In addition to its headquarters in Keighley, West Yorkshire, the company also has a factory in the North East in Washington. Both which are “quite industrial areas”, says Mr Robbins. “That means competition is quite high for certain skill sets,” he added.

Following the vote to leave the European Union, a few key people at the business have returned back to their home country. But the business has done its best to retain its staff, Mr Robbins said.

PFF currently employs 314 staff across the two sites and has a turnover of £32m. Mr Robbins is aiming to increase both turnover and staff headcount, with the company embarking on an investment drive. He said: “We’re looking to get the business to £50m in the next five years. We’re keen to grow. We’ve got lots of opportunities ahead of us. We’ve got to invest quite heavily to make sure we achieve those.”

The company will also be looking to recruit around another 30 staff.

An experienced pair of hands

The PFF Packaging Group is one of the largest independent producers of thermoformed plastic food packaging.

The Keighley-based firm has been operating for 26 years and of its 314 or so staff, 174 are based at its Keighley site.

Kenton Robbins has taken over as group managing director from Andy Bairstow, who will continue as CEO. Mr Robbins has worked in both the public and private sectors for more than 23 years. He has worked at director level for Dairy Crest and Uniq. Mr Robbins also works closely with the Institute of Directors to help businesses with economic development.