The truth about coffee cup recycling – update

Melbourne is undoubtedly a nation of coffee drinkers, with a good café never far away for us to get our caffeine fix. While it would be nice to sit down at the local café with a paper and sip on our coffee, the reality is most of us are busy people – on the way to work and the like and just grab a quick takeaway.

Something that I have personally been confused about is what to do with my takeaway cup once I have finished with it. Is it recyclable? Some bins in public places have labels on the general waste with coffee cup images on them, while others have these on the recycling stream. So what is the answer?

The truth about coffee cup recycling

The truth is that unfortunately even if you think you are doing the right thing and throwing your cup in with the mixed recycling – once the load reaches the MRF for the recycling process the coffee cups will be manually taken out as they are deemed as contamination.

The truth is that unfortunately due to the physical make up of the coffee cup they cannot be recycled. The question of coffee cup recyclability is controversial though as other coated materials such as milk and juice cartons are able to be recycled.

After researching and speaking to various recyclers, there are a few reasons as to why coffee cups cannot or will not be recycled:

  • Coffee cups are of a different composition to something like milk cartons (the lining on the coffee cups needs to withstand hot liquid without going soggy so is attached more tightly than milk cartons). Therefore, these would require a specialist facility to recycle.
  • Coffee cups may be made of recyclable material but most of the processors are reluctant to accept them as these cups often still contain coffee mixed with coffee bean residue.
  • There are too many different types of coffee cups (approx 200 – 300 variants), and all are made up differently – therefore all requiring different specialist facilities to recycle.

At the moment worldwide, 1 million disposable cups end up in landfill every minute! In November 2016, Simply Cups conducted trials in Australia to gauge the feasibility of setting up a specialised recycling facility for paper cups. The good news is that this initiative has come to fruition, read more about it here.

Until then, what should we do?

Unfortunately at the moment we do seem to live in somewhat of a ‘throw away culture’ but we should be trying to get out of that mentality. Think about reducing waste and reusing products where we can.

  • In terms of our coffee cups, the ideal solution is to use a ‘reusable ‘cup. A great product is the KeepCup. KeepCups are pleasant to drink from, are sealable and splash proof and can also be fully customized via their website – size, colour, branding etc.
  • Another option is the Simply Cups programme, click here to find out if this might be an option for your business.
  • If you don’t have a reusable cup with you, please dispose of the disposable coffee cup in the general waste.

KS Environmental will continue to keep an eye on any more progress that’s made in regards to coffee cup recycling. We will keep you posted as any information comes to light.

If you have questions about the recyclability of any other products please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sources: KeepCup