How to Recycle Paper Cups
Your classic to-go coffee or soda cup is designed for one-time use, but unfortunately recycling at this point is basically nonexistent in the U.S. That’s because all cups are lined with a thin coating of plastic that can’t be easily separated during the recycling process. The most innovation on paper cup disposal has come in the field of composting, and that is still limited at best.
Paper Cup Recycling Preparation
- Unfortunately, odds are pretty good that you’ll have to throw the paper cup away. However, there is better news for its accessories.
- You can remove the paper sleeve for coffee cups and recycle that with corrugated cardboard. The plastic lid should be recyclable if your local program accepts #1-7 plastics in non-bottle form. The straw or stirrer should be thrown away.
- If you have a backyard compost bin and you purchase bio-based paper cups, you can try to compost them. The paper will break down, but you may have difficulty with the plastic lining.
Why Recycle/Compost Paper Cups
- It’s estimated that 60 billion paper cups are thrown away in the U.S. each year
- Coffee chains recycle less than 1 percent of their cups internally
- If your paper cups are lined with polylactic acid (PLA) instead of polyethylene, they are able to be commercially composted in less than 60 days
Frequent Paper Cup Recycling Questions
- Reuse Ideas for Coffee Cups, Sleeves and Stirrers: There are plenty of crafty alternatives to throwing away your coffee cups
- Starbucks to Recycle Old Cups into Napkins: The world’s largest coffee retailer has come up with an option for recycling its cups
- What NOT to Put in the Bin: Paper cups are just one of many common sources of contamination in curbside recycling programs