Milwaukee’s Summerfest Recycles Single-Use Drink Cups


It’s not common to be able to recycle your single-use drink cup at a concert or stadium, but attendees to Milwaukee’s recent Summerfest were able to toss their drink cups into the recycling bin. Photo: Solo Cup Company

This year’s Summerfest in Milwaukee featured an impressive line-up of musical acts, including Kanye West and Britney Spears, but the new recycling program at the world’s largest music festival, which ended on July 10, also received top billing.

In addition to recycling plastic drink bottles, as in previous years, Summerfest attendees could also toss their plastic drink cups into the recycling bin for the first time this year.

The festival’s organizers sourced the recyclable drink cups from Solo Cup Company, makers of the iconic red cup used at parties and large events. While typical single-use drink cups are made from plastic #6 polystyrene or #5 polypropylene, the cup Summerfest chose is made from the more easily recyclable plastic #1 PET – the same plastic used to make soda or water bottles.

But the fact that Solo’s PET cups and plastic bottles share the same plastic resin code (#1 PET) doesn’t mean they can be automatically recycled together. Their difference in shape and color actually denotes they are a different type of plastic and have different melting points, therefore requiring separate recycling.

READ: Are Your Recyclables Really Being Recycled?

Before selecting the PET cup for the event, Summerfest’s organizers and Solo worked with the local garbage and recycling company, Waste Management, to make sure the company could find recycling markets for the new single-use cups.

“You have to do your due diligence and follow [the cup] all the way through the process,” said Kim Frankovich, Solo’s vice president of sustainability. “It’s not enough to provide recycling bins; you also have to work with the recycler and waste hauler to make sure the cups they collect actually get recycled.”

To further assist the recycling efforts at the 11-day festival, Solo imprinted each cup with the message, “Recycle This Cup,” and provided over 30 of their own employees to attend the event to promote recycling.

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PepsiCo, MillerCoors and Keep America Beautiful also chipped in, supplying Summerfest with more than double the usual number of recycling bins the event has used in past years.

“There were over 300 recycling bins,” Frankovich said. “You couldn’t turn anywhere without seeing a recycling bin.”

Solo is also working with other festivals and large venues, as well as their waste haulers, in the Chicago area to set up similar recycling programs for single-use PET drink cups. Last year, Wrigley Field began serving drinks in a recyclable Solo PET cup made from 20 percent recycled plastic bottles.

“We want to be part of the solution,” Frankovich said. “We want our products out of the landfill stream and into the recycling stream.”

READ: TerraCycle and Solo to Recycle Iconic Red Cups


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