Can you compost paper cups? The reply is yes, no and depends.
I emailed a bunch of companies that produce paper cups and asked them if their cups contained a plastic liner, and if so, what kind was used.
Excluding Solo and Chinet, the rest of the companies got to me (although Dart and Solo seem to be portion of the same conglomerate, and Dart replied). I couldn’t know if the customer service people were weirded out by my questions… am I the sole person asking this? Probably near it, but hopefully not the only real one.
My research into Solo was definitely by far the most peculiar. I needed no clue there is a (terrible) song committed to red solo cups, then within that song saying that “within 14 years these are decomposable”… occur Toby- plastic doesn’t decompose, it simply breaks into smaller pieces for the fish to enjoy. Going further, there’s a Facebook page sporting over 45,000 likes… for red solo cups.
Anyway, Solo does have an “eco forward” product line called Bare. Rejoice. This cup utilizes a whopping 20% post consumer recycled plastic in the plastic cups. I was hoping their eco line could have either cups created from PLA or paper cups having a soybean wax liner, however i guess you can’t have it all. Avoid this company. Is their competition significantly better?
I’m getting before myself. My point for doing the study in the first place was because I didn’t recognize that nearly all paper cups possess a thin plastic (polyethylene) lining inside of them, which would be to maintain the cup from failing (think coffee). Surprisingly, even a lot of the “cold cups” use a liner too.
I know from experience that it’s difficult to use a bioplastic cup with hot liquid in it… the cup falls apart pretty quickly. However I also know that it’s possible to employ a paper cup with 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 answer if you need to make use of a paper cup? Paper cups will go in the compost pile no worries, just don’t expect them to come out for some time, and they’ll remind you that you place them in there by leaving behind a plastic skeleton. Fat chance this could be recycled, but it’s very easy to pull these out of finished compost and place them in the blue bin.
One other choice is to “recycle” the paper cup, which can be more often done than composting. In recycled paper processing mills, the slurry from a pulper is screened to get rid of plastic, ink, clay, dirt, metals, etc through the paper. Therefore, the cup’s plastic liner is considered a contaminant. What goes on to this particular sludge from here?
Any better ideas? The coolest example I’ve experienced showed itself after i proceeded 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 would like to understand more about this design, then wonder why I don’t see these more frequently. Maybe they’re a little more tedious to produce… that knows? I believe this concept is becoming somewhere, though. The real victory will be if this cup didn’t use a plastic liner. I must learn.
What exactly are other companies 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 procedure extraction material for paper products as opposed to burning it for fuel is actually a better use.
Overall, 6 away from 8 major paper cup manufacturers experienced a compostable liner option available, so it might be reasonable to imagine which a demand has arisen for this kind of product.
The drawback is that they’re more costly, and odds are slim that they may biodegrade properly in a home composting setup, unless you have a sustained hot pile going. This reminds me in the Sun Chips bag dilemma… technically kurifp , but not likely to happen for the majority of of us.
I’m still keen on the wax lining, although wax also takes forever to get rid of down and is also usually paraffin, which is derived from petroleum, which can bother some home composters. Any cups having a soybean wax liner available out there? This is probably not the right question to become asking. Back to the boring basics- make use of your own cup as much as possible to avoid sending those plastic skeletons for the landfill/oceans.