Can you compost paper cups? The reply 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 type was utilized.
Except for Solo and Chinet, the rest of the companies got to me (although Dart and Solo appear to be part of the same conglomerate, and Dart replied). I couldn’t determine if the consumer service individuals were weirded out by my questions… am I the only real 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 had no idea there was a (terrible) song dedicated to red solo cups, and then within that song stating that “within 14 years they may be decomposable”… happen Toby- plastic doesn’t decompose, it merely breaks into smaller pieces for your fish to eat. Going further, there’s a Facebook fan page sporting over 45,000 likes… for red solo cups.
Anyway, Solo has an “eco forward” product line called Bare. Rejoice. This cup uses a whopping 20% post consumer recycled plastic in its plastic cups. I had been hoping their eco line might have either cups created from PLA or paper cups using a soybean wax liner, but I guess you can’t have it all. Avoid this provider. Is the competition far better?
I’m getting ahead of myself. My point for doing the study to start with was because I didn’t recognize that nearly all paper cups have a thin plastic (polyethylene) lining inside of them, which is to keep your cup from falling apart (think coffee). Surprisingly, even a great deal of the “cold cups” possess a liner too.
I am aware from experience that it’s difficult to employ a bioplastic cup with hot liquid in it… the cup falls apart pretty quickly. Having Said That I also realize that it’s possible to utilize a paper cup with a PLA (polylactic acid, a compostable plastic) liner with great results. What about a doubly thick paper cup with wax?
Exactly what is the best answer if you have to use a paper cup? Paper cups will go within the compost pile no worries, just don’t expect these to appear for a while, and they’ll remind you which you put them in there by leaving behind a plastic skeleton. Fat chance this is recycled, but it’s easy to pull these out from finished compost and put them in the blue bin.
Another option is to “recycle” the paper cup, that is more often done than composting. In recycled paper processing mills, the slurry from the pulper is screened to eliminate plastic, ink, clay, dirt, metals, etc from your paper. Therefore, the cup’s plastic liner is regarded as a contaminant. What happens to this particular sludge from this point?
Any better ideas? The coolest example I’ve experienced showed itself after i went on vacation to Panama recently. I received a paper coffee cup with a fold-out handle so you don’t burn your hands, while eliminating the necessity for the cardboard sleeve.
I need for more information on this design, then wonder why I don’t see these more regularly. Maybe they’re a bit more tedious to manufacture… that knows? I do believe this idea is to get somewhere, though. The real victory will be if this type of cup didn’t possess a plastic liner. I have to find out.
What exactly are other companies doing? The range of answers went from mostly plastic liner, PLA liner, or wax lining (only in cold cups). Another company uses sugar cane bagasse, and using this method 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 that a demand has arisen for this type of product.
The drawback is the fact they’re more costly, and odds are slim that they can biodegrade properly in a home composting setup, unless there is a sustained hot pile going. This reminds me of the Sun Chips bag dilemma… technically kurifp , however, not very likely to happen for most of us.
I’m still a fan of the wax lining, although wax also takes forever to break down and is usually paraffin, which comes from petroleum, which can bother some home composters. Any cups using a soybean wax liner available available? This might not be the best question to become asking. Returning to the boring basics- make use of your own cup as often as is possible in order to avoid sending those plastic skeletons for the landfill/oceans.