When is a paper cup recyclable?

Paper cups are paper and therefore recyclable right? Wrong. The vast majority of paper cups have a plastic lining and therefore can’t be recycled. Enter the Talking Tables totally plastic free, home recyclable paper cups for both hot and cold drinks.

Eliminating plastic from our party cups wasn’t easy, which is probably why we were the first to do so. But when we made a commitment to removing plastics from our collections it was something we just had to address.

The overwhelming number of paper cups today have a plastic lining. There is a big advantage for manufacturers in using plastic as a lining. Making cups involves heat and plastic is suited to this process and is also an effective water barrier. Working with our suppliers, we came up with a unique water-based coated barrier that is fully recyclable. The technical term for the more scientifically minded is ‘aqueous dispersion coating’.  It was still tricky to make it work as producing a plastic free cup involves a much higher level of precision, especially around the bottom of the cup. There can be no gaps and no weaknesses. After a lot of trialling, we introduced our plastic free cold drinks cup in 2021. Then this year, we followed up with another first – a plastic free cup for hot drinks. Which required even more precision and trialling.

The cups are made from paper from FSC certified, sustainably managed Nordic forests and can be home recycled. If, for any reason, they don’t find their way into a recycling bin they will biodegrade. And that’s important because of current green washing by many companies. Many cups claim to be recyclable because they use a special plastic known as PLA, but they can only be recycled at an industrial recycling centre and how many of us have access to one of those. It’s impossible to tell a plastic free cup from a PLA cup without sending it to a lab. Which means many recycling plants assume cups contain plastic and throw them aside – we know because we visited our local recycling plant as part of our research. That’s why we recommend tearing up your cup into pieces so it no longer resembles a cup before putting it in the recycle bin.



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