Cup developer Chang Ching-wen with his new product. (Photo/CNA)
A biotechnology company in Taichung, central Taiwan has developed paper cups that provide resistance against high temperatures, acid and alkaline solutions, with some beverage chain stores already using them, the company owner said Monday.
Taiwan uses about 200 million paper cups a month and the safety of food containers has attracted concern after it was reported that a major Taichung supplier of paper food containers had been found using toxic solvent to wipe excess ink off its food containers.
Chang Ching-wen, the owner of a traditional paper cup manufacturing company, decided to conduct research and development of high temperature, acid and alkaline-resistant paper cups that will not release plasticizers after the government introduced restrictions on the use of plastic shopping bags and disposable plastic tableware in 2003.
Paper cups produced by Chang's company at one point accounted for up to 60% of the domestic market.
Since traditional paper cups provide no resistance to high temperatures, acid or alkaline, many people inadvertently consume plasticizer released from the cups when the liquid they contain is too hot, Chang said.
Chang's company began paper cup production in 1992, when paper cups were a relatively eco-friendly product compared with plastics and polystyrene. Despite this, the industry was not optimistic about the market. His company nevertheless successfully developed two-tier paper cups, which made the company the largest producer of the product in Southeast Asia.
With increasing awareness of environmental protection, Chang found that the problem of plasticizers being released by paper cups containing hot beverages was difficult to solve, while the recycling value of single-use paper cups was low and disposal of such cups could cause soil and air pollution.
Chang invested more than NT$200 million (US$6.81 million) in the development of a new type of paper pulp that produces paper cups resistant to temperatures as high as 130 degrees Celsius and that do not release plasticizers. The cups can be placed in a microwave and are also acid and alkaline-resistant. They are 40% lighter than ordinary paper cups and their decomposition rate can exceed 97%.
Chang said the cup has obtained patents from up to 100 countries and received SGS and FDA certifications. It has also won its inventor various prizes.
A number of drink and coffee shop chains, including Starbucks, have begun using the product, which is also sold in China, the United States, the Philippines and Australia, with orders of up to 10 million cups placed each month, according to Chang.
Chang Ching-wen 張靜文