Paper Cups Now Recyclable Curbside
Here's some good news for anyone feeling environmental guilt over a drive-thru coffee habit.
Kane County's curbside recycling guidance has long stated that paper cups can't be recycled. Paper cups are paper on the outside but have a thin lining of polyethylene plastic on the inside that makes them waterproof and durable.
Paper pulping methods and equipment have advanced over the years so that single layers of paper fiber and plastic can be separated and the paper fiber repurposed for other uses. In addition, because we have reached a tipping point where enough paper mills are using these new processes, recyclers can formally include paper cups on the “yes" list.
This change was recently confirmed during a meeting the Illinois Recycling Contamination Task Force, which includes representatives from all of the private companies that sort and broker recyclable material in Northeastern Illinois.
Here are the best practices for recycling paper cups:
Step 1: Remove any lids, stirrers or straws and throw these in the trash.
Step 2: Is the cup empty? If you didn't finish your drink, please pour the remainder down the drain or into the trash.
Step 3: Inspect for cleanliness. Empty cups that held cold drinks or relatively plain coffee should be fine to recycle without rinsing out. Cups that held a drink that left a residue, such as hot chocolate or a craft coffee drink containing syrup will need a quick rinse. Simply fill the cup about a third of the way with water, swish it around, dump it out and recycle the cup.
Unfortunately, plastic single use cups are still not recyclable and should be placed in the trash (with the exception of foam cups, which can be dropped off for recycling - see “Styrofoam" on our A-Z guide). And even though they would seem to be very similar to paper cups, grocery store ice cream and frozen yogurt cartons are non-recyclable because they are poly coated both on the inside and the outside, unlike the cups which are coated on just one side.
Reusable cups and bottles are still the best choice for the environment. It takes a lot of water and energy to recycle paper. But if you find yourself on the go without a reusable cup or planning a gathering or meeting where providing reusable cups just isn't feasible, paper cups offer a recyclable option.