This has been a popular question as of late, with a hugely increased focus on environmental responsibility companies and private individuals using disposables now looking at their usage with sustainability in mind.
Before tackling the topic of recycling it’s important to note the different types of paper cups commonly in circulation:
- Paper cups with PE (polyethylene) lining
- Paper cups with PLA (cornstarch) lining
- Bamboo cups with PLA (cornstarch) lining
It’s a common misconception that paper cups with a lining cannot be recycled; in fact this is completely untrue. Paper cups cannot simply be put in your regular household paper recycling stream as the lining is classed as a contaminant; however there are other ways of recycling the paperboard used in these cups.
All cups need some sort of lining, without this they will leak. We’re often asked why cup manufacturers don’t just remove the plastic lining. It’s there for a reason; it keeps your coffee in your cup!
To be recycled correctly paper cups either need to be “cut” or mixed with a pure source of paper recycling (newspaper for example) or sent to a specialised facility that has a process to separate the lining from the cup before recycling the paper part. Both of these methods are good alternatives to the recycling issue. When mixing the paper cup waste with a pure form of paper recycling, the plant is simply managing the contamination level to keep it within tolerance. A certain percentage of contamination is acceptable and still results in usable paper pulp. Separating the lining from the cup is the other option, if there’s a facility for this method available in your area then this will enable cups to be directly recycled – however this is very area dependent.
Looking to have your cups recycled? There are various schemes that we support which can assist with this, for example:
- Save a cup can arrange collections of your cups if the volume of use is sufficient, they will then process the waste using a suitable facility: http://www.save-a-cup.co.uk/.
- Simply cups offer a wealth of advice on cup recycling and also offer a “post back” service when you can send your cups for recycling: https://simplycups.co.uk/
Bamboo cups are a newer type of cup that doesn’t rely on traditional paperboard, as the name suggests they’re made from fast growing sustainable Bamboo grass. This is not suitable for recycling at present, but these cups are designed to be sent to commercial composting facilities where they’re processed and completely break down to mulch.
We recommend checking with your local council and asking what recycling and processing facilities are available in your area. Some councils have processing facilities dedicated to paper cups and are able to recycle or process them directly. As this is done on a per-council basis customers need to check what facilities are available in their area – it may well be that your local council has a regular collection that’s compatible with paper cups, or a collection centre.