It’s easy to think that the disposable paper coffee cup we buy every day should go into the recycling bin. After all, it’s paper. It should easily decompose and break down without too much environmental harm. Right? Unfortunately, you’re wrong. The majority of the cup is made of recyclable paper, but there is one distinction that renders the disposable coffee cup non-recyclable.
Why you can’t recycle a disposable coffee cup
To make the cardboard cup able to hold liquids without leaking or weakening, a plastic lining or a wax lining is used to insulate the cup. This thin layer of plastic coating makes the whole cup non-recyclable. Even if the recycling facility could recycle the plastic liner inside the cup, rarely do they have the capability to separate the plastic from the paper and recycle the two materials separately. The coffee cup is the perfect example of how two recyclable materials, paper, and plastic, when combined, make the product non-recyclable.
Whenever you want to get rid of items that are made up of a combination of several seemingly recyclable materials, make sure that they are being disposed of correctly. If they can’t be recycled, they need to go in the trash. If non-recyclables end up in the recycling bin, it could contaminate the whole bin, and a lot of recyclable materials will end up in the landfill. Recycling incorrectly is almost as bad as not recycling at all.
Recycle what you can
You may not be able to recycle the disposable coffee cup, but all the other items that go with a hot cup of coffee should be recycled. The cardboard sleeve, for instance, should be recycled. In some cases, you may also be able to recycle the plastic lid, wooden stir stick, and paper sugar packets. Sometimes when the big item isn’t recyclable, we forget about all the small items that follow. Every little bit counts, so recycle what you can, whenever you can.
Reusable coffee mugs
To avoid the whole dilemma regarding disposable coffee cups, bring a reusable coffee mug with you. Anytime you can replace a single-use item; whether it’s recyclable or not, you will take some pressure off the planet and reduce your carbon footprint. Reusable items minimize the need to source the planet for new materials and manufacture new things, as well as the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.
Always check with your waste management and recycling company about what you can and can’t recycle.