Are Takeaway Coffee Cups Recyclable?

Let’s grab a coffee – Billions of them

But at the end of these well-oiled production lines, replicated all over the world, are garbage bins brimming with disposable cups and lids, cups left on benches, at bus stops, blowing down the street and rolling in the gutters.

It’s estimated that as many as three billion coffee cups are sold each year in Australia. And most of these aren’t recycled – they’re piling up in the landfill and escaping into our rivers, parks and marine systems.

So we should recycle them, then?

Not necessarily. The well-intentioned caffeine lover who tries to do the right thing and recycle their cup may be doing more harm than good. The plastic waterproof lining of many paper coffee cups means they can’t be recycled with collections of paper and cardboard and may actually contaminate a load, causing the whole lot to be sent to landfill.

Factor in the hefty use of resources that goes into producing them and coffee cups are landing a triple blow to our environment.

What are the main problems with the takeaway coffee cup?


Coffee and hot drink cups make up a significant portion of polluting litter in the environment.

Tim Silverwood of Take 3, a group campaigning to reduce plastic pollution and clean up the oceans, says, “We see thousands of coffee cups and lids through our clean-up activities polluting beaches, waterways and parks and streets.”

Takeaway cups and takeaway food containers (including coffee cups) are 23% (or the second-largest category) of litter by volume in NSW, according to the Keep Australia Beautiful – National Litter Index 2014–15.

Plastic and polystyrene break down into smaller pieces in marine ecosystems and are ingested by birds, fish, turtles and other creatures, sometimes with fatal results.


It’s estimated that 500 billion coffee cups are produced globally each year and if they were placed end to end they’d circumnavigate the globe 1360 times! Planet Ark says that about 60,000 kilograms of plastic waste from coffee cups is directed to landfill each year in Australia, where it can take about 50 years to break down.

Are any takeaway coffee cups recyclable?

Paper-based cups

The plastic lining of paper-based cups is not easily recyclable or biodegradable.  Paper-based cups are usually lined with a membrane of polyethene (plastic) to make them waterproof, but it means they are not recyclable alongside paper or cardboard, or biodegradable.

There are many hybrid varieties of a coffee cup on the market including wax-coated cups (like milk cartons) and ‘biodegradable’ cups.

But Dave West, National Policy Director of the Boomerang Alliance, says that without clear labelling, most people and recycling facilities can’t distinguish which cups can be processed and recycled with the cardboard and paper recycling.

As for the cups that are labelled biodegradable, Tim Silverwood says, “Biodegradable cups don’t compost in normal compost. It takes very specific industrial composting conditions, which are not available to the bulk of the population.”                            Written by Alison Potter – CHOICE

Read More From Alison’s Article Here



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Are Takeaway Coffee Cups Recyclable?