Lecta provides innovative water-dispersion-coated, plastic-free paper cups
On July 6, 2021, Lecta showed the world its contribution to the creation of biodegradable and recyclable disposable tableware by revealing the EraCup Natural paper cups, which don't contain plastic at all.
EraCup Natural is another case of the general trend towards an active fight for the eco-environment. At the same time, it serves as the first representative of Lecta's line of functional papers designed following responsible consumer behavior.
The material is absolutely safe since contact with hot or cold liquid does not cause a chemical reaction, so no extraneous substances get into the drink.
EraCup Natural is sure to be appreciated by mobile people whose rhythm of life requires them to buy their favorite drink on the go. The product quality is ensured by strict certified control of ecological and nutritional safety.
Another important factor only reinforces these obvious advantages - the cups are fully recyclable. This fact demonstrates the company's respect for the environment once again.
Santiago Tesi, being Director of Marketing and Innovation at Lecta, highlighted one exceptional feature of EraCup. It turns out that their paper doesn't need such a high temperature to seal, as do other materials. This means that not only Lecta produces eco-friendly packaging materials, but it also saves energy resources by allowing up to a 20% temperature decrease during the cup-making machine's operation.
At the same time, Tesi confidently states that the usability and durability of the cup are the same as those with the usual plastic lining.
Solving technical issues
The team spent a long time working out every possible detail to streamline the product. First, engineers faced the task of choosing the appropriate material for production. They settled on SSB-grade cardboard, created from certified cellulose with a density of 170-380 g/m2.
The developers thought long and hard about making the cups adaptable to flexographic and offset printing without sacrificing the environmental friendliness of the material. In the end, this problem was solved as well - the company got a product with an uncoated outer surface, where buyers can let their imagination run wild and create their own designs. On the other hand, the inner surface has a coating with a sealed water dispersion that guarantees water resistance.
The tricky part was finding the right dispersion to achieve the functional properties needed for disposable cups.
The marketing director is proud to say that EraCup's idea didn't just miraculously appeared from the air. A professional design team performed years of research to find the perfect formula that would satisfy all the criteria - and the result didn't disappoint.
Material safety is something that manufacturers of any product should value most. That is why the company meticulously searched for a solution that would be safe in contact with food. And now that the perfect material for creating a product has been found, it's ready to hit the market.
Typically, polyethylene barriers are the go-to choice when creating disposable cups. They have pleasant physical characteristics like preventing fogging of the outer coating or retaining the drink's temperature. But polyethylene creates problems during recycling. Being plastic in nature, it has to be separated from the paper, or the whole process will fail otherwise.
"In order to make these cups, you need the paper to stick together. That is where our new dispersion layer comes in," Tesi says, "obviously, it has to be safe to use with food or drinks. One of the only substances that fit both criteria is water. Because of that, we replaced polyethylene with an aqueous dispersion that is harmless for the environment and people».
The director also noted, «The cup-making machines are not as fast as we want them to be, so we decided to go in the other direction and create a paper that seals faster when exposed to heat.»
Restrictive measures related to the coronavirus pandemic have also added to the difficulties. They negated the ability to quickly improve the product to meet the demands of processors and major brands. It resulted in a significant delay in the product launch.
Peculiarities of coating application
As always when launching a new product, there were some manufacturing problems at the start. Sant Joan Mill, EraCup's current place of making, was originally a usual graphic papers facility near Girona, Spain.
"The new paper we developed has some distinctive features not found in the standard coated wood-free (CWF) paper. This has forced us to make modifications to the equipment. But there was also a bright side to this situation - we gained original experience when working with the new coating.
"EraCup is a paper that needs only the planet's renewable resources to create it. It contains no polyethylene or polylactide. Moreover, it is completely reproducible and fully biodegradable.
Tesi concludes with the following: "EraCup is an eco-friendly good. Considering the rising of an anti-plastic movement nowadays, our product has a very promising future."