Can you compost paper cups? The answer is yes, no and depends.
I emailed a variety of businesses that produce paper cups and asked them if their cups contained a plastic liner, and if so, what kind was used.
Except for Solo and Chinet, the rest of the companies got to me (although Dart and Solo look like portion of the same conglomerate, and Dart replied). I couldn’t know if the consumer service everyone was weirded out by my questions… am I the sole person asking this? Probably near it, but hopefully not the only one.
My research into Solo was definitely the most peculiar. I needed no clue there was clearly a (terrible) song committed to red solo cups, and then within that song stating that “within 14 years they are decomposable”… happen Toby- plastic doesn’t decompose, it merely breaks into smaller pieces for the fish to eat. Going further, there’s a Facebook page sporting over 45,000 likes… for red solo cups.
Anyway, Solo comes with an “eco forward” product line called Bare. Rejoice. This cup works with a whopping 20% post consumer recycled plastic in the plastic cups. I used to be hoping their eco line would have either cups produced from PLA or paper cups with a soybean wax liner, having said that i guess you can’t already have it all. Avoid this provider. Is the competition significantly better?
I’m getting before myself. My point for doing the study to start with was because I didn’t understand that virtually all paper cups use a thin plastic (polyethylene) lining within them, which is to keep your cup from falling apart (think coffee). Surprisingly, even significant amounts of the “cold cups” possess a liner too.
I understand from experience that it’s difficult to employ a bioplastic cup with hot liquid inside it… the cup falls apart pretty quickly. However I also understand that it’s possible to employ a paper cup having a PLA (polylactic acid, a compostable plastic) liner with good results. What about a doubly thick paper cup with wax?
What exactly is the best solution if you need to make use of a paper cup? Paper cups can go within the compost pile no worries, just don’t expect those to come out for a while, and they’ll remind you which you place them in there by leaving behind a plastic skeleton. Fat chance this would be recycled, but it’s easy to pull these out of finished compost and put them in the blue bin.
One other option is to “recycle” the paper cup, which can be more often done than composting. In recycled paper processing mills, the slurry coming from a pulper is screened to remove plastic, ink, clay, dirt, metals, etc from your paper. Therefore, the cup’s plastic liner is regarded as a contaminant. What will happen to this sludge from here?
Any better ideas? The coolest example I’ve experienced showed itself after i continued vacation to Panama recently. I received a paper coffee cup with a fold-out handle so that you don’t burn both hands, while eliminating the necessity for the cardboard sleeve.
I need to understand more about this design, and then wonder why I don’t see these more frequently. Maybe they’re a little more tedious to manufacture… that knows? I think this concept is getting somewhere, though. The real victory will be if this cup didn’t use a plastic liner. I have to find out.
Exactly what are other businesses doing? The plethora of answers went from mostly plastic liner, PLA liner, or wax lining (only in cold cups). Another company uses sugar cane bagasse, and ultizing this process extraction material for paper products as opposed to burning it for fuel is really a better use.
Overall, 6 from 8 major paper cup manufacturers enjoyed a compostable liner option available, so it would be reasonable to imagine which a demand has arisen for this kind of product.
The drawback is the fact that they’re more costly, and chances are slim that they will biodegrade properly in the home composting setup, unless there is a sustained hot pile going. This reminds me from the Sun Chips bag dilemma… technically kurifp , however, not very likely to happen for many of us.
I’m still a fan of the wax lining, although wax also takes forever to get rid of down and is usually paraffin, which hails from petroleum, which can bother some home composters. Any cups using a soybean wax liner available available? This is probably not the correct question to be asking. Back to the boring basics- use your own cup as frequently as is possible in order to avoid sending those plastic skeletons for the landfill/oceans.