In 2021, the global consumption of paper cups reached more than 244.7 billion units. Most of them still have a non-recyclable plastic lid on. Finnish entrepreneur Matti Salonoja wanted to create an alternative to plastic. Stora Enso Cupforma Natura Aqua+ gave a base for the groundbreaking solution.
Matti Salonoja ended up making paper lids partly by chance. In 2008, he and his friend thought about having a business and ended up importing branded paper cups to Finland. When his friend left the company after a couple of years, Salonoja started selling cups full-time, and in 2014 he decided to get a cardboard cup machine himself.
Back then, the coating on the paper cups prevented them from being recycled. In 2015, however, several cardboard manufacturers started to develop an alternative to the plastic used in cups made of water-based coated cardboard.
“At that time there were two companies with a cupping machine in Finland and as a smaller company, it was easier to come to me to test cardboard solutions. That is how I gained experience with the products of many different companies, the properties of materials, and how they should be used in machines," says Salonoja, entrepreneur - Kruunukartonki company, Masku, Finland.
In 2017, the cups had recyclable cardboard but a plastic lid. While dyeing still makes it impossible to recycle plastic, the cup was simultaneously presenting two extremes of ecology.
“I wanted to find a better solution, and I knew that in theory, it was possible to make a recyclable paper lid. Understanding the materials was crucial. I tested different techniques and materials on my machine, and by 2019, it was possible to produce the lids with the existing technology.”
Cupforma Natura Aqua+ gave the base for a change
Knowing that the right kind of material is available was important to Salonoja when he considered switching from manufacturing paper cups to lids.
“I contacted Stora Enso and asked if they would supply me with suitable material if I started making paper lids. They promised that, and it was decisive support when I dared to develop a new solution.”
Ending up with Stora Enso's Cupforma Natura Aqua+ cardboard when choosing cover materials was by no means a coincidence for Salonoja.
"Stora Enso has the longest experience in the world in the production of disposable cardboard. Cupforma Natura Aqua+ has been refined to such an extent that it is pleasant to use. I used to make cups from the same material, so it was familiar to me. You can see from Cupforma that it is one of the best cardboards in the world, and works very well in our process."
The key features of Cupforma Natura Aqua+ are its workability, structure, and raw material suitable for manufacturing lids.
"Often, it doesn't matter to the customer where the cardboard is made. However, everyone notices that our lid is better because it is made of better raw material. The sturdy product made of long-fiber softwood pulp feels good and the firm lid snaps into place in the cup. So you can hear and feel it. This is very important for the user," states Salonoja.
Wood-based better world is worth working for
The demand for recyclable cup lids is currently almost unlimited. The legislation keeps accelerating the change.
“At the moment, we can sell all the lids that are made, let's see how big this thing can grow. The plastic lid is already banned in many countries, and it remains to be seen when it will be in the EU.”
Matti Salonoja is not content to remain only a manufacturer of coffee cup lids. Product development continues, and there are numerous other applications for the recyclable cardboard lid.
“Next, we will make a branded cup cover for the customer, and after that, we will move on to different food storage boxes such as curds and cottage cheese. There is also a square lid for, for example, margarine boxes.”
Future products will also be made from Stora Enso's Cupforma Natura Aqua+ cardboard.
“It's a great material that can be used for many things. There is good cooperation with the company, and we are constantly coming up with ideas on how many plastic products could be replaced with wood-based solutions in the future. We share the same goals and ideals with Stora Enso, we want to bring a more sustainable alternative to different materials and solutions. Change is slow, but it is work worth doing," Salonoja summarizes.