Have you had your coffee today?
Good, because it's time to test your knowledge about paper coffee cups, waste, and recycling.
Most paper cups are made of:
Why are paper cups sent to the landfill?
If one person purchases a disposable cup every day, how many pounds of waste is created every year?
What are six major steps in the recycling process?
The ink on paper cups doesn’t need to be removed before being recycled into new products.
Every ton of recycled paper saves:
Thanks for taking the time to take the quiz.
We hope you learned something and had a little fun, too.
Read our in-depth feature on paper coffee cups here.
If you want to learn how BASF is tackling the problem, watch our short video.
ACardboard, with a thin layer of plastic tightly attached to the cup.
BMultiple layers of recycled paper and plastic.
CPaper and wax.
AMost facilities can’t recycle paper cups because they are two-dimensional coated packaging and the process to separate the polyethylene from the cup stock paper board has proven to be difficult.
BMost people don’t put their paper cups into the recycling bins.
CPaper cups biodegrade naturally in landfills.
APick-up, sorting, re-pulping, screening, de-inking, and new products.
BPick-up, sorting, soaking, washing, drying, and folding.
CSorting, cleaning, chopping, marinating, simmering, and then taste testing.
As you may have guessed, there's a lot more to the paper cup recycling process - and many more components that need to be processed by your local recycling plant (if they get recycled at all).
Click on the paper cup diagram to learn more about its individual parts.
Your morning wake-me-up has a lid made of polystyrene, a non-biodegradable plastic. Most recycling facilities lack the means to handle these plastic lids, although it depends on the type of lid (black or white; PS-5 or PS-6) and the requirements of your local recycling program.
What keeps your paper cup from collapsing into a hot, soggy mess once it’s filled with your beverage of choice? That’d be the polyethylene lining, made from a common plastic that retains heat and repels liquids.
Although the plastic coating only makes up 5% of your cup, most paper recycling mills lack the equipment to filter it out.
That’s why the vast majority of paper cups end up in landfills.
The bulk of your cup is made of wood and bark chips transformed into wood pulp and then processed into paper, which then gets bleached and shaped into cups for your caffeinated consumption.
Many paper cup manufacturers use 100% virgin paper board to make the vessel for your morning java, while companies like Starbucks integrate 10% post-consumer (recycled) paper with 90% virgin materials.
The cardboard sleeve puts up a protective barrier between your hands and the scalding-hot liquids in your cup. While it depends on the cup and the company, the sleeve is oftentimes made of recycled and recyclable materials.
The Mobius loop generally means your cup is recyclable, but the recycling system in your area may reject the cup anyway.
Another Mobius loop variant shows off a code to identify the item’s recycling category — like PS-6 for the polystyrene lid or PAP for the paper cup and sleeve.
Before your paper cup can be fully recycled, its fancy graphics must be stripped away in a process called deinking. To avoid the ugly side-effects of ink waste, many companies are moving towards soy, vegetable and water-based inks for a lighter environmental impact.
Did you know?
Only three of 450 U.S. paper recycling mills can process plastic-coated cups.
Our waste keeps piling up
An estimated 50 billion cups in the U.S. end up in landfills every year.
And never seems to leave the party.
The standard polyethylene-lined paper cup takes about 20 years to decompose.
If waste isn't your cup of tea?
Check your local recycling guidelines to make sure every part your paper cup ends up where it should.
Feed the Mobius loop
You can support recycled content by switching to coffee shops that only use recyclable paper cups, cups made from recycled material, or both.
And use the right equipment for the job.
If your local coffee shop has its own recycling system, try to dispose of your paper cups in the special bins they provide in-store.
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