Does your business need recyclable plastic cups?

Hayley Osbourne
August 4, 2023
An image of a recyclable plastic cup, a takeaway cup made from recyclable plastic, single-use cups, disposable cups, sustainable plastic cups in an article on whether your business needs recyclable plastic cups

As the demand for sustainable materials increases, several businesses outside the coffee sector can benefit from investing in recyclable plastic cups. 

For example, the average sports stadium can host up to 300 events annually, and use up to 5.4 million single-use cups. This generates around 64 tons of plastic waste. Furthermore, large-scale music events, such as Coachella and Stagecoach in the US, and Glastonbury in the UK, can generate up to 100 tons of solid waste every day.

Beyond this, waiting areas in service stations, hospitals, and conference centres also use single-use cups when offering customers refreshments. Shifting to compostable, biodegradable, or recyclable plastic cups may reduce the waste and carbon emissions associated with these businesses. 

Read on to discover how your business can benefit from investing in recyclable cups. 

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The underlying issues with single-use cups

Until recently, the majority of single-use cups have been made using petroleum-based plastics such as Styrofoam, polypropylene, or polyethylene-coated paper. While these materials are useful for retaining heat and preventing leaks, they are energy intensive to manufacture and difficult to recycle. 

Research conducted by product-testing company Intertek found the carbon footprint of producing, using, and disposing of just one single-use cup is the equivalent of more than 60g of carbon dioxide.

Even when they are disposed of, disposable cups continue to be an environmental issue. Experts believe single-use cups can take up to 30 years to decompose because of the low levels of oxygen, heat, and airflow in landfill conditions. 

In response to these environmental concerns, several countries have implemented bans on single-use plastics. Notably, in 2019, 170 countries pledged to “significantly reduce” their use of plastics, including disposable cups, by 2030. 

Additionally, the United Nations has drafted its End plastic pollution mandate which could see a global push for the further reduction of single-use plastics and cups. It is only a matter of time before businesses outside the food and beverage industry are forced to switch to sustainable alternatives. 

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Which sustainable cups are best for your business?

As more countries implement bans on single-use plastics, the number of biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable alternatives has increased. That said, there are several factors to consider when determining which is best for your business. 

Businesses with waiting areas, such as hospitals, service centres, and conference centres, may benefit from investing in compostable or biodegradable paper takeaway cups. This is because these venues tend to serve both hot and cold beverages, as well as make use of water coolers. 

Due to the foot traffic in these venues, you should invest in cups that are lined with an eco-friendly coating to ensure the paper can be recycled. Bio-based plastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA) have become a popular choice for coating paper takeaway cups.

PLA is produced by allowing bacteria to ferment natural starches like corn and sugar cane into hydroxy acids. Depending on its additives, weight, and processing conditions, it can be recycled or biodegraded in residential or industrial facilities.

Consistent testing has shown PLA offers effective barrier properties in a range of papers, provided it is applied properly. Beyond this, a PLA coating has no odour or aftertaste as it is resistant to high temperatures, as well as the fatty acids found in drinks that contain milk.

While a cup’s specific qualities differ depending on the manufacturer, cup size, and material type, most PLA-coated cups can be broken down in the presence of bacteria and fungi. These metabolise the cup into water, carbon dioxide, and organic compost.

Sports stadiums and concert venues, however, are unlikely to invest in paper takeaway cups. Paper takeaway cups may lack the durability required to last through the event. This means they’re likely to crumple or become weak while consumers use them. 

A better solution would be plastic cups made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is a type of clear, strong, lightweight plastic that is 100% recyclable. It is often a preferred material for plastic bottles and other uses because of its sustainability. PET can be recycled into new products repeatedly, reducing the amount of resources wasted. 

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Recyclable plastic cups: What are the benefits?

Currently, PET is one of the only materials that can be processed in a circular way, which makes it the preferred option. However, it is important to remember that a prerequisite for circular recycling is the cups have to be collected in a clean mono stream, which contains no waste or other types of plastic, and they must be ink free.    

Businesses across all industries are under immense pressure to lower their carbon footprint. Therefore, finding which areas lead to high levels of waste is essential to improving a company’s sustainability practices. 

Tackling the takeaway cup crisis is not only about reducing the number of cups used. It’s also about educating consumers on how to manage them once they’ve been used. 

Companies can ensure the cups in their establishments are disposed of correctly by placing bins in convenient locations. Further, they can indicate exactly which cups belong in each bin to ensure there is no contamination along the recycling stream. 

MTPak Coffee provides years of experience and industry knowledge to deliver business owners and roasters with the right disposable coffee cups that are made from high-quality printable materials, but are also kind to the environment. 

Our range of sustainable takeaway cups is made from recyclable materials such as bamboo fibre or kraft paper with an environmentally friendly PLA lining. We also offer recyclable plastic cups made from PET. 

All our cups are available in different sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 12 oz, and 24 oz. Our takeaway cups are strong, waterproof, lightweight, and 100% compostable, and can be custom-designed using innovative digital printing technology to feature your brand logo or recycling instructions. 

Our use of digital printing means we offer customers a quick turnaround and shipping time. This allows us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging, no matter what size or material is used.

For more information on recyclable plastic cups for your business, contact our team. 

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