The journey of your disposable cup

Your morning routine has become a ritual. You wake up, get dressed, grab your bag and you are off for the day. What comes next? COFFEE! You might make it at home but the average consumer is getting it on the go at their local coffee shop. Enjoying a cup of coffee, or any hot beverage for that matter, is often a part of the average consumers daily routine.

The Coffee Association of Canada indicated in early 2018 that Canadians drink more coffee on a regular basis than water. I challenge you to think about this for a moment! As humans we are told that we need water in order to survive, but coffee?

From 2016 to 2017 coffee consumption outside of the home increased from 39% to 44%. This increase is positive for cafe owners, coffee distributors, and those interested in specialty coffee as cafes and unique coffee experiences will only continue to grow. However, this also indicates an increase in demand for disposable cups as the majority of customers do not bring their own reusable cup.

Do you remember the last time a disposable cup leaked a liquid hot mess all over your hands? NO! This is because of the wax-like coating that lines the interior of the paper cup. This lining is called polyethylene, also referred to as PE, and is used in almost all disposable cups in the market. Maybe you’ve heard of polyethylene or maybe you’re wondering why I’m even bringing this up. Do I have your curiosity? Good!

Let me explain the life cycle of your disposable coffee cup

When consuming a beverage on the go, cafes will supply a disposable paper option for you to own. After you take that cup on your days adventure you are posed with a challenge; put it in recycling or send it to landfill? Despite signs and directions of action on the product itself, not all of your disposable cups are recyclable. This is where polyethylene comes into the conversation, a plastic material lining the inner layer of your standard paper disposable cup.

This leads us into the discussion of post-processing. Although you have filtered your trash appropriately, there is another filtering stage during post-processing that could impact it’s ultimate destination. However, were you aware that the polyethylene lining in your paper cup causes it to be non-recyclable in most systems? For example, disposable coffee cups in Toronto, Canada are NOT recyclable. This piece of information may seem confusing as most coffee chains will suggest you recycle your cup. The harsh reality though, your cup is going to landfill no matter how hard you try to do your part as the end user of this product. What part of the cup can you recycle? The cardboard sleeve and lid (as long as it isn’t black) as these are solid material that can be recognized and sorted in the processing plant. Unique recycling systems will accept the paper cup, although they require an expensive process to separate the plastic lining from the paper cup.

Compostable cups may seem like a great alternative, however, they are not compostable unless they are subject to the proper environment to decompose in. The typical composting system cannot support their decomposition and label these cups as contaminants.


The first problem is that your cup is not always recyclable or compostable. The second, even if you recycle it, the chances of it going to landfill are high! Overall, what is the solution? CURA! A program supporting your daily routine while using a reusable coffee cup that eliminates the need for single-use cups. Learn more about our program HERE.