With an estimated 2.7 million disposable coffee cups being used everyday in Australia, it would of course be optimal for as many cups as possible to be recycled. Sadly though, it's a fact that not all coffee cups can be. Whilst many people think coffee cups are made from recyclable components, they are often made from a combination of materials - typically a paper cup with a plastic lining or an inner coating to make it waterproof. This combination of materials makes it challenging to recycle them effectively. One other problem can be that the lid is able to be recycled, but the cup may not be.
The plastic lining in coffee cups is often made of polyethylene, which is difficult to separate from the paper during the recycling process. Additionally, the cups may be contaminated with leftover coffee or other liquids, further complicating the recycling process.
In many recycling facilities, coffee cups are not accepted in the regular paper or cardboard recycling stream because of these challenges. If coffee cups are mistakenly placed in the recycling bin, they can contaminate other recyclables and reduce the overall quality of the recycling stream so sadly the majority of coffee cups still end up in landfill.
To address this issue, some specialised recycling facilities or programmes have been developed in certain areas to handle coffee cup recycling. These facilities use specific processes to separate the paper from the plastic lining and recycle each component separately. It's advisable to check in your local area as these facilities are not at this stage very widespread. One of these to check is: https://www.simplycups.com.au/
In another attempt to promote more sustainable practices, some coffee shops and businesses have started using compostable or biodegradable cups as an alternative. These cups are designed to break down more easily in composting or anaerobic digestion facilities, reducing the environmental impact. Some examples are: https://nomoreplasticpackaging.com.au/ or https://www.biopak.com/au/cups
In conclusion, while efforts are being made to improve coffee cup recyclability, the majority of coffee cups are not currently recyclable in standard recycling systems. It is important to check local recycling guidelines with your Council to understand the specific requirements for coffee cup disposal in your area.
Why not choose a reusable drink cup like 'Huskee' - we stock them here on our website (these amazing cups are made from recycled coffee grounds. Isn't that just wonderful to turn waste into a new, functional and sustainable product). Here is the link to find them: https://kitmaii.com.au/collections/reusable-coffee-cups
You could also opt for coffee shops that use compostable cups for their take away option or better still, take a seat and enjoy your coffee in your favourite cafe in a real cup ☕️