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The Conundrum of Coffee Cups & Recycling

Posted by Esther C. on 6/2/2022 to Composting

We’re addicted to coffee, but that’s a problem. Our beverage of choice produces massive amounts of waste. Every year, American toss 4 billion coffee cups, and Canadians throw out 1.5 billion in the same period. That’s just two countries, and while we may be the worst offenders, estimates put the number of trashed cups at 600 billion cups around the world every year.  

So, what about recyclable cups?

“But, there are recycled cups,” you say.  It says it right there on the outside of the cup, and you use it everywhere from your coffee-shop pitstops to your in-office coffee breaks. Those cups are made from recycled materials, and some coffee shops even offer a special trash bin for the cups and lids. Even when you’re using a recycled cup, and even when the coffee shop correctly collects the recycled paper cups, there can still be a problem. Your community may not actually be able to support the specialized process that it takes to properly recycle the wax-lined or plastic cups. It still feels great to use recycled cups, and there are a few locations (usually large cities like San Francisco, Toronto or Seattle that really can offer true recycling processing of your cup. You really can make a difference, just perhaps not the extent of a difference that you may have imagined when you purchase that disposable cup with the recycle symbol, and filled with your favorite coffee beverage.

How do compostable cups figure in? 

You’ve got to love the idea of using a cup that will just decompose into dirt when you’re done using it. That would seem to be the perfect solution. Or, there’s the biodegradable cup that also features embedded seeds. There are lots of interesting ideas for biodegradable options. One problem is that the relative cost of the cups makes it an unsustainable option for use in your coffee shop, or even (probably) for use in your office or restaurant. The other issue with biodegradable cups is that while they may decompose eventually, they’re not really designed to be put into your backyard compost heap. Most biodegradable cups are made of PLA (polylactic acid) plastic, which requires hyrdrolyzing for biodegradation to occur. 

What about reusable cups? 

Reusable cups are one, very popular and sustainable solution. And, it works great for in-office use. As a business owner, you’ll cut down on a ton of trash and can also contribute to a friendlier feel in your office by encouraging each of your employees to bring in their own coffee mug. Some bosses take it one step further by doling out personalized coffee cups for each team member, with embossed name plates or even a company logo. That special gift is perfect for the coffee service that you already offer to your employees. 

How Recycle Away Can Help You With Coffee Cups 

At Recycle Away, we are firm believers in the power of sustainability and recycling. We know that coffee cups are an important consideration for you and your business. Coffee cups are here to stay in all of its various iterations. We’re here to help you consider the best options for you, your staff and your customers. We also offer the products and services to support your needs.