The Truth About Recyclable Cups

by James Turton | June 19, 2019

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There is a lot of new information out there talking about ‘new’ recyclable takeaway cups. Technically all takeaway cups are recyclable and have been for years. The problem we have is the process for recycling cups is extremely energy intensive, and the 
end product doesn’t have a high enough value. For these reasons, less than 0.01% of all takeaway cups used in the UK get recycled. 

There have been some developments to try and make the recycling process easier, and the end material more desirable. One company has introduced minerals (mainly chalk) into the PE lining to try and make the recycling process easier. Another company has developed a way to bond the PE liner to the paper cup so that it is more easily removed and less energy intensive.  

The main issue with these developments is the waste management companies and recyclers cannot easily tell the difference between these and other cups. As a result, even these new recyclable cups are not being recycled. The other issue with these new cups, is if they end up in the environment, they will break down in the same way as standard PE lined cups. The paper will degrade, however, you will be left with the PE liner, which will break down into micro-plastics. 

Nearly all takeaway cups are being disposed of in standard waste streams; they will most likely be incinerated to create power. 

We are working with manufactures to create a Paper Only Cup (Lined with an Aqueous Coating). This cup will be able to be recycled through standard paper waste streams. It will NOT need to go through a special process like the PE lined cups. It is true that it will also be difficult for waste management companies to tell the difference between these cups and PE lined cups. 

To help with this, we are also working with local waste management companies to develop signage (on the cups, on bins, and within the waste management premises) to make it very clear what to do with this new cup. However, if it still gets treated the same as other cups, it still has great benefits; as it is just paper, it is cheaper and easier to manufacture, reducing its carbon footprint and if it ends up in the environment, it will have no adverse effects. 

While this cup is being developed, we truly believe Compostable Cups are the best option. They are made from renewable resources and if they end up in the environment, they will break down leaving no harmful residues. For more information, click here.