Confused By Paper Cups? Here’s A Guide To The Choices Available
While the complicated debate around the environmental impact of packaging waste continues, what are the options available when it comes to buying eco-friendly or regular custom printed paper cups wholesale – and to ensure your customers can dispose of them with peace of mind?
Reusables only go so far as the majority of coffee purchases are still spontaneous. Until the facts are fully unpacked on this issue, demand for single use disposable cups is set to continue unless there are wholesale changes in mindset or legislation that affect consumers’ habits.
When you’re looking where to buy disposable coffee cups, you also want to showcase your brand with custom printed cups. But what happens to the cups with your brand on them is worth some careful thought.
First, let ‘s look at the options available. (Click to expand the sections to read more on each cup type.)
So what types of custom printed paper cups are out there wholesale?
- Have a bio plastic (PLA Polylactic Acid) lining as a barrier instead of the regular polyethylene (PE) lining.
- Are compostable in industrial composters.
- Cups must get to the right facility to be composted effectively. (Compostable, ‘biodegradable’ cups can be disposed by your customers in brown domestic compost bins, but will not decompose in a home compost pile.) There are Waste Management companies collecting compostables and recyclables to ensure they get sent to the appropriate type of waste facility. That’s if customers are using bins that you provide, which is unlikely for a takeaway / to-go business, (see more below).
- In the UK, Vegware are doing great work with their ‘Close the Loop’ initiative connecting vendors with waste collection schemes.
- Double Wall recyclable cups with the right certification can be recycled in the regular paper/card waste stream (Path 13)
- The reCUP™, which features a mineralised EarthCoating® liner that breaks down in the regular recycling stream, is an example of a cup designed to exceed this standard.
- The reCUP™ Double Wall cup was designed for and was recently awarded AAA certification by the Institute cyclos-HTP in conjunction with the European Green Dot scheme – the first and only paper cup to achieve this classification.
- Institute cyclos-HTP standards are recognised throughout the EU and Switzerland.
- Also made from a mix of recycled paper and sustainable forestry sources.
- Double or Single-Wall standard paper cups are made from a mix of sustainably sourced and recycled paper board with a PE plastic liner.
- These cups are now only recyclable where facilities exist to collect and send them to the right reprocessing plant.
- More plants are coming together to collect and process standard cups in recycling paths in the future.
- According to a Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRG) report, cup recovery rates in the UK have dramatically improved from just 1 in 400 cups in 2016, to 1 in 25 in 2018. It’s expected that in 2019 as many as 1 in 4 will be recoverable.
Which Custom Printed Disposable Cup Type Suits Your Brand?
The material you choose to serve your customers takeaway drinks in can say a lot about your brand values.
So it’s worth considering carefully before considering what cups to buy wholesale, stock and serve – and how you might assure customers what happens to their paper cup.
After all, you may well pay for a specialist collection service for eco-friendly models – but most of your customers aren’t putting them into the bins you provide once they’ve left your premises.
Some chains are making big efforts to collect cups and pass them to the right processors. But, again, this involves customers bringing the cups back to an outlet.
Cup disposal is a complicated issue. Your customers walk out trusting that whatever sustainable cup you’ve chosen to serve can be processed according to type. More often than not, that’s not really the case though.
In Ireland and the UK a lot of bins are still not segregated into waste types, so trash largely goes to landfill regardless of you or your customers’ best intentions.
This means even compostable cups are not returning any benefit to the biosphere. See an example of this in New Zealand.
Checking-In with your Local Authority and Waste Processors
Lobbying your local government to collect recyclable cups is the ideal solution.
We also strongly advise working with local waste management companies to ensure they’re aware of what types of cup are circulating in their local area so that cups are accepted into their streams.
Street Bins and Domestic Bins
Cafe owners pay their rates that contribute towards council litter bins. But the street furniture local government provides is often not to the standard of waste segregation required.
This is because the process for disposal isn’t there following collection with so much going direct to landfill.
PE-lined cups that are accepted by the plants that can process them still require additional steps to pick and sort them from other paper waste. (They still accept paper envelopes with plastic windows though, so, go figure … ).
Again, reCUP™ is the easiest product to prove that no additional picking is required, because it’s designed to be processed through Path 13 without issues.
If you serve sustainable paper cup models and your local authority is collecting recyclable waste, then a recyclable cup is a great option to ensure the material is reused and redistributed in a circular economy. This is because it comes from a mix of both recycled and sustainable resources – plus it can be recycled repeatedly.
Choose the right waste path
There is likely no widespread street furniture offering a compostable segregation and vendors. So event concessions or organisers for example, will need to find a viable path to industrial composting facilities if they choose to serve biodegradable cups on location.
Once again, in this case, showing the reCUP™ certs to waste collectors and processors is advised to ensure the maximum benefits from using sustainable cups are achieved.
Encouraging your customers to take their cups home and place them in the right type of bin (brown for compostables, recycling for recyclables) is also a realistic step in the right direction.
In fact in a recent YouGov survey in the UK, 68% of respondents said individuals should be responsible for their own takeaway waste. A further 9% thought the responsibility should lie with retailers, 8% with packaging producers, and 5% with local councils.
This way both recyclable and compostable cups will go into the right processing streams – as will PE-lined, regular paper cups once there are more plants re-accepting this type of cup.
Packaging companies are making strides in sustainable options, but authorities could arguably do more to enhance their own services instead of just taxing consumers or vendors.
Comparing single use cups with reusables
It’s a complicated argument but a fascinating study by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research gave a strong argument that disposable cups have a lesser impact on the environment than a reusable cup.
Here is another similar study referenced on the climate impact of reusables vs. paper cups.
As ‘greenwashing’ subsides, the arguments are stacking up more and more that reusable cups may be no better than disposable paper cups, with a wider perspective applied by the media on where cups fit into ecological and climatological effects begins to surface.
Landfill Good or Bad?
On the subject of landfill and recycling as a contribution towards climate change this clip gives a very interesting perspective – and even argues landfill as being a viable option.
- CupPrint is a Huhtamaki Group company and the only disposable coffee cup supplier manufacturing all three choices of paper cup type.
- CupPrint specialise in producing beautiful, branded paper cups custom printed for cafe and coffee shop operators.
- Cups are available from quantities as low as 1000 pcs with high resolution custom printing and 15-day delivery.
- CupPrint manufacture cups and supply Europe-wide from their HQ in Ireland.
- This fast turnaround and Low Minimum Order Quantity means smaller businesses with less storage space can present their brand with a unique and high quality branded paper cup.
Sustainable cups already make up over 50% of CupPrint’s business and this figure is expected to be close to 100% by the end of 2019.