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Recycling
Recycle for Scotland

What to do with coffee cups?

06 APR 20 | 2 minute read

One of the best things you can do with paper coffee cups is to stop using them. Instead, invest in a reusable coffee cup and remember to take it with you. 

Compostable coffee cup alternatives will often end up in landfill sites where they are unable to breakdown, as facilities to process them are just not widespread. 

Even the standard ones that look like paper aren’t - they’re actually a hybrid of paper and plastic - and fusing these two materials together makes them a massive hassle to recycle.

It is technically possible, but there are only a few places that do it, so they are not widely collected. Try to avoid these whenever possible.

Household recycling collection

not currently recycled

Disposable coffee cups and paper drinks cups are not currently accepted via household recycling collections and should be placed in your general waste container unless specifically asked for by your local authority.

Household waste recycling centre (HWRC)

not currently recycled

Disposable coffee cups and paper drinks cups are not widely recycled at local recycling centres and should be placed in your general waste container unless specifically asked for by your local authority.

Other recycling collections

Recycling facilities exist

Some coffee shop chains have introduced on-site recycling collection points for cups. Costa Coffee currently accepts any disposable takeaway cup via one of their 2,600+ stores.

Why can’t coffee cups be recycled like paper and card?

Paper cups can’t be recycled like paper and card. They need a specific process to be recycled because the inside of the cup is coated with a type of plastic film (polyethylene) which keeps the liquid in the cup and stops the rest of the material from getting soggy.

Recycling technology is developing in this area and some facilities can recycle paper cups but the challenge is finding a clear waste stream for this.
 
When put into general waste coffee cups (including compostable or biodegradable cups) are most likely sent to landfill where they produce methane gas - one of the most damaging greenhouse gases contributing to the climate emergency.

What can you do?

  1. Invest in a reusable coffee cup and ditch single use disposables

  2. If you have the time, sit in and enjoy your coffee

  3. Some coffee shops now incentivise reuse and charge for a disposable cup or offer a discount

  4. You, the consumer, can change how things are done so why not ask your favourite coffee shop to recycle it for you

Recycling is constantly evolving and changing so check back for updates or try our recycling locator to find out what you can recycle at home and where you can recycle or pass on unwanted items in your local area.

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