Unfortunately the picture above is a common sight. It’s almost impossible to go out for a walk around town and not spot a discarded paper cup on the ground. In fact, I took this picture when I was at the beach this morning (in February!). Can you imagine how many disposable cups will be on the ground come summertime?!
There’s no doubt about it, disposable cups are handy. From grabbing a quick cup of coffee on the go to dixie cups in your bathroom, disposable cups have invaded our lives (at the expense of the environment).
So, what is one to do? Completely rid our lives of the convenience of disposable cups OR find environmentally friendly disposable cups we can use instead?
Well, you know that I am going to try my best to find an ecofriendly alternative, and that is exactly what I did.
In this article, I am going to answer some common questions asked about disposable cups and their environmentally friendly alternatives.
Are disposable cups biodegradable?
No, most disposable cups are not biodegradable. Most disposable cups are lined with polyethylene (a type of plastic), so they will not biodegrade.
Can disposable cups be recycled?
Unfortunately, due to the polyethylene coating in disposable cups, they are unrecyclable. As well, the disposable cups get contaminated with whatever liquid was in them. Most recycling facilities just aren’t equipped to sort and separate disposable cups.
One good thing is that the plastic lids and cardboard sleeves that generally accompany disposable cups ARE recyclable, so I guess that’s something.
What are eco-friendly cups?
Honestly, the most eco friendly cups are reusable, NOT disposable. Euronews.com put together a great list of ecofriendly reusable cups here. There are some really unique and forward-thinking reusable cups included on this list. In fact, I want to try all of them myself!
Since we are talking about disposable cups in this article, characteristics to look for when choosing the most ecofriendly disposable cups are:
- Made sustainably from FSC paper
- Lined with plant-based resin (NOT petroleum or plastic based)
Making sure your disposable coffee cups check these three boxes will ensure you are drinking from the most ecofriendly cups.
How do you dispose of biodegradable coffee cups?
One important thing to note is that these cups need to be disposed of in a commercial composting pile. Your municipality may have composting bins around town or curb-side pick up, these are your best options.
Whatever you do, DO NOT RECYCLE your compostable coffee cups. They will be thrown out or incinerated at the recycling plant, making all of your effort to pick out an ecofriendly disposable cup moot.
Are paper coffee cups bad for the environment?
Uhhh, yes, paper cups are bad for the environment and here is why:
- Most paper cups are NOT made from recycled paper, instead virgin paper is used, meaning trees are cut down in order to make disposable paper coffee cups.
- Paper that makes the cups are often mixed with chemicals that can harm the environment.
- The lining of the cups is polyethylene, which is basically a plastic paste. Gross.
- Polyethylene layer prevents paper coffee cups from being recycled.
Here is a little more information from greenmatch.co.uk to illustrate my point.
Where Can I Buy Biodegradable cups?
Maybe you are planning a wedding or a big party where reusable is not a great option. I get it, however it must be noted that I recommend reusable cups all the way, there are certain instances where they just may not be feasable.
No worries, I got you covered. I dug deep into the web and pulled out some environmentally friendly disposable cups you can find pretty easily.
Biodegradable Cups from Costco
Yes, Costco has biodegradable cups!
Eco Kloud Hot or Cold Cups
- 12 oz.
- $89.99 for 1000 count
- Compostable cup made from Paper lined with compostable corn plastic (PLA)
- Make your compostable coffee cup a model for your commitment to Green America!
- Beautiful green design and green stripe on white surface makes this cup a perfect addition to your compostable tableware!
- Compostable hot cup is the best alternative to paper, plastic and styro-foam cup
- Upscale Sustainable Tableware
- Recommended for hot or cold drinks
- Strong, no need to double up
- Recommended to be composted at commercial composting facility. Check to see if appropriate facility exists in your area
Biodegradable cups from Walmart
Bare Paper Compostable Cups
- Available in 8, 10, and 12 oz sizes
- $11.29 for 50 count (12oz)
- PLA lined
- Fully compostable
- Made from 100% plant based renewable resources
Eco-friendly cups on Amazon
- Available in 4, 8,12, and 16 oz.
- $17.99 for 50 count (12 oz.)
- 100% biodegradable
I could not find out what these cups are made from, so if anyone knows, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!
- 12 oz
- $19.99 for 100 count
- Lining made from renewable plant-based starches (PLA) that prevents condensation and leaking
- 100% biodegradable and compostable
Hopefully this list will help point you in the right direction when you are looking for ecofriendly disposable cups for your wedding or party.
It might not hurt to get lids to go with those cups if you anticipate some spilling (if you know what I mean). You know how Uncle Pat likes to Irish up his coffee!
Luckily, most lids are recyclable, so that’s a good thing. But if you’re looking for a biodegradable lid so that you can put the cup and lid in the same bin (because you know your guests may not be into separating the cup from the lid and putting them in the correct bins), here are some biodegradable coffee lid options for you.
Naeco Biodegradable Coffee Lids
- $69.00 for 1000 count
- Made from FSC-certified pulp with no PFAS or other coating
- they don’t get soggy like paper straws
- they contain zero plastic
- Recyclable, biodegradable or backyard compostable
- No industrial compost facility required
Good Start Packaging Compostable Lids
- $111.15 for 1000 count
- Made from CPLA or Crystallized Poly Lactic Acid. PLA is made from corn.
- Plants in this product are grown in the USA.
- 100% compostable within 2-4 months in a commercial composting facility.
- Withstands heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Conforms to all FDA guidelines & ASTM D-6400 Standard.
- This lid fits a large variety of cup sizes from 10-20 ozs
I hope this list helps you pick out the most suitable environmental disposable cups for your particular needs. I feel that I must re-iterate the fact that the biodegradable cups need to be disposed of in a commercial composting facility, as most cups will not breakdown properly in your backyard compost pile.
Do you use disposable cups or are you a reusable cup kinda person? Let me know in the comments below.
Cheers, and have an awesome day!
Great article. We own a small coffee shop and we are constantly being asked about “biodegradable” cups. Fortunately we now have a commercial composter who can pick up, so we have made a switch to certified compostable cups. We found the best ones for out purpose here: https://greenpaperproducts.com/biodegradable-hot-cups.aspx
Thanks so much for the info!
I am looking for a more eco-friendly alternative to Styrofoam, which is in my current workplace, but we do not have access to any compost. Would it still be considered better for the environment to use these types of cups then disposed in the garbage compared to Styrofoam?
Thank you so much for this information. I am looking at party rentals to get glassware, dishes and napkins so I don’t use single use products. Is it true that washing reusable stuff uses energy/water and caustic environment unfriendly detergent that makes avoiding single use products an exercise in futility? Thank you
Is PLA acceptable for anaerobic digestors that many residential waste haulers use?