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Cut the rubbish: Five things you should know about compostable cups

With continuing concerns around single-use packaging and the impact on our environment, there has been a big shift in the market with increasing demands for sustainable alternatives.

There is a big question mark around recycling and composting, what is the difference and what is the right disposal option for food packaging, specifically takeaway cups. We are here to bring you the facts on compostable cups.

1. Compostable packaging including PLA hot cups are made with a bioplastic lining.This lining is made from plants which reduces the use of fossil fuels. The product itself is a polymer, but has a renewable base. 

2. PLA packaging composts under specific conditions as defined by the EU standard EN134321These conditions are  present at commercial composting facilities. To ensure your PLA product is successfully processed, ensure it is collected for commercial composting.

3. Compostable cups cannot be recycled in the paper and cardboard recycling stream and should be collected seperately for commercial composting. This due to the limitations with separating the lining from the paper fibre3. And despite some claims that they can be placed in the mixed kerbside recycling bin, as demonstrated in our recent article, a MRF cannot process any takeaway cups for recycling.

Image of takeaway cup on a beach

4. PLA cups are not engineered to break down in home composting environments4, and need to be collected for commercial composting to ensure the cups are able to be processed and breakdown alongside food or organics products. 

5. Diverting organics waste from landfill removes the risk of the paper component of paper-and-bioplastic coffee cups breaking down and releasing greenhouse gases including methane2. By ensuring your PLA products are successfully collected for commercial composting, you can remove the risk that these products will release greenhouse gases in landfill. 

Fish in amongst litter in the ocean