Climate Tech

Recycling pioneer Closed Loop is now turning used coffee cups into roads

- March 6, 2023 2 MIN READ
PAK-PAVETM road installation.
The coffee cup you used this morning could one day end up something you’re driving over – in a good way.

In a first-of-its-kind pilot project in Western Sydney has used recycled coffee cups to create more sustainable roads made from up to 50% recycled materials.  

The fibres in the cups are an additive that helps create a superior, more durable product, that’s quieter and safer than regular asphalt.

Called PAK-PAVE Roads, it has been developed by State Asphalts NSW in collaboration with Closed Loop Environmental Solutions, which operates the ‘Simply Cups’ paper cup recycling program. 

The paper cups used in the PAK-PAVE surface are collected by Simply Cups, Australia’s largest paper cup recycling program, which mixes them with other materials to create higher-value items. 

Simply Cups collects everything from coffee cups, takeaway soft drink cups, takeaway ice-cream and gelato cups, and other paper cups. 

Cups are processed and shredded to create what they call PAK-PAVE Fibre.

Penrith City Council has teamed up with State Asphalt Services to resurface Jamison Road in South Penrith and Swallow Drive in Erskine Park last month. Nearly 136,000 used coffee cups were used in the road surface, with 85% of them collected for recycling in Penrith LGA last year.

And that’s not the only recycled materials in the asphalt mix – it also contains around 1.2 million glass stubbies, reclaimed asphalt pavement, and steel furnace slag, a by-product of steel making.

State Asphalts NSW director John Kypreos said it’s taken three years to develop PAK-PAVE roads. 

“We have enjoyed great support from government at all levels to get to this point,” he said.


The PAK-PAVE Fibre

“It is exciting to be delivering a practical circular economy solution in partnership with Closed Loop, and we hope that other councils and state governments will start specifying PAK-PAVE Roads, both as a high-quality road surface and a product that uses a high percentage of recycled materials.”

John Kypreos said the other sustainability benefits of the recycled product include improved pavement durability and crack resistance, enhanced wet weather skid resistance, reduced noise levels from surface texture, a reduction in raw materials and the carbon footprint down by 24%. 

Closed Loop MD Rob Pascoe said the Simply Cups program has saved over 30 million paper cups from landfill since it began in 2017.  

“We have explored dozens of practical applications for the cups which contain very high-quality fibre but are challenging to recycle because of their waterproof lining,” he said . 

“While we have multiple avenues for the recycled cups, including light weight concrete products and construction boards, PAK-PAVE Roads is a fantastic solution because it uses such large quantities.”

Around 630 7-Eleven stores have cup collection units as well as shopping centres, office buildings, schools, and universities.

Locations can be found on the Simply Cups website or the free RecycleMate app.