Everyday Life

How To Recycle Paper Coffee Cups

You can count on disposable coffee cups finding their way into your office or workplace, whether you like it or not. Despite the increasing trend towards reusable cups, convenience and hygiene make disposable coffee cups inevitable.

The number of businesses implementing new processes and recycling programs to accomplish their zero-waste-to-landfill goals is increasing. Nevertheless, disposable cups are often overlooked and thrown in the garbage. Recycling your cup waste at work has many advantages, including reduced landfill waste disposal costs.

Disposable Paper Coffee Cups

Paper cups can be divided into several different categories. There are many different types of paper cups available in the market today.

  • Air Pocket Insulated Cups – The inner and outer ridged layers are insulated with air pockets to provide better insulation.
  • Poly-coated Paper Cups –  These cups have a polymer coating that insulates the inside of the cup while protecting the outside from deterioration.
  • Post-consumer Paper Cups – These cups are made with a high percentage of recycled paper, resulting in less virgin material being used.
  • Sustainable Paper Cups – These cups are compostable and biodegradable. All of the materials used in the production of the cup are renewable and natural.
  • Cold Paper Cups with Wax Coating – These paper cups are wax coated so they offer added rigidity and protection against leaks for cold beverages

Are Coffee Paper Cups Recyclable?

There is a common misconception that coffee cups are not recyclable, but they are. You cannot recycle them if you put them in the mixed recycling container, or the paper recycle container. If paper coffee cups are to be recycled and reprocessed into something new, they need to go into a specific waste stream. Using disposable cups as a recycling product, paper can be reprocessed for up to seven times, transforming into products such as paper bags, greeting cards, and notebooks.

To prevent leaks, reduce extreme temperatures, and enhance the durability of disposable paper cups, their interiors are typically lined with plastic or wax. It creates a considerable challenge when it comes to recycling, since the cups need to be stripped of their coatings and broken down, and that takes specialized equipment.

We can all help this pressing environmental issue by simply making a few small changes. We don’t even have to stop drinking coffee.

Recycling disposable coffee cups can only happen if they are collected systematically in bulk – this requires stream-specific recycling bins to be in place. By installing coffee cup recycling bins at locations where people drink coffee – in your office, in your workplace’s canteen, at coffee shops, fast food restaurants, at train stations, airports, and so on – you make it less likely that people will throw away used paper coffee cups in just any container. You will be able to ensure not to contaminate other streams of recycling by setting aside a particular recycling bin for disposable coffee cups. You will also be able to collect these bulky items more efficiently.

It is not possible to recycle disposable paper cups in a general paper recycling bin at your home, at your workplace, or anywhere else. This is because:

  • The cup lining is made of PE plastic.
  • Liquid waste and residue left in the cup that contaminates other papers
  • The cups become difficult to separate from other recyclable and non-recyclable waste streams once they are mixed with other waste streams and are often too damaged to be recovered.

Thus, the best way to improve the recycling rates of cups is to gather the cups in a separate container, away from other waste streams, and empty out all the cup waste (liquid and any other rubbish). The same is true of paper cups made from 100% compostable paper.

In addition to improvements in local government policies, recycling infrastructure, and general public awareness, innovation and collaboration will be necessary for managing the environmental impacts of disposable coffee cups. Offering coffee cups for recycling in your organization would be a great place to start.

What Are The Benefits Of Recycling/Composting Paper Coffee Cups?

  • According to estimates, the U.S. throws away more than 60 billion paper cups each year.
  • The number of coffee chains that recycle their cups internally is less than 1%.
  • Polylactic acid (PLA) liners are compostable in less than 60 days if they are used instead of polyethylene.
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