Paper Cups at Events: Recycle, Compost, or Trash?

Ah, paper cups. You see them at every running event, being handed out at aid stations to perspiring runners, who slug down the contents and then toss them down, sometimes in a waste bin, but often just in the road, or wherever.

What happens to them afterward? Your average runner has no idea. Trash collection is someone else’s problem – they’re here to run! But if you’re part of the event staff, and you want to do right by the environment, what options do you have?

And don’t forget the coffee cups. Next to water, coffee is likely the second most-popular beverage among runners, who consume it liberally before and after a race. At least these cups usually end up in the trash bin. But is that the best place for them?

Paper cups in trash can

Since paper cups are made mostly of – well, paper – common sense dictates they would work equally well either put in with the other recyclables, or mixed in with the food waste to be composted.

Unfortunately, today’s technology has not yet fully caught up to common sense.

While many cups made today claim to be more “eco-friendly” because they contain some post-consumer material, in most areas that cup has reached the end of the line. In other words, it’s headed for the landfill when the last drop of that latte has been drained.

Why is that, when paper can be recycled many times? The answer lies in what else is added to that cup.

Paper by itself is not a good choice to hold liquids for any period of time. The fibers absorb moisture, lose their integrity, and the cup disintegrates. Since this is not an acceptable outcome, the interior of the cups has a water-resistant lining.

Read more at the “Tyler Talks Trash” website.

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