Are Paper Cups Recyclable?

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As pandemic restrictions ease and you start heading back into the office, you may also find you’re frequenting your local coffee shop more often. While you’re sipping your latte, you may wonder … are paper cups recyclable?  

Well, are paper cups recyclable? 

Yes, paper cups are recyclable! There are currently 31 mills across North America recycling paper cups. The fiber from those cups is then used to make tissue, paper, containerboard and paperboard.  

Ok, but do all mills accept paper cups for recycling? 

It’s true that not all mills accept paper cups. But infrastructure is expanding, and the industry is innovating new technologies and working with municipalities to collect even more.

There are mills recycling cups from major cities coast-to-coast, including cities like Boston, Denver, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. 

Innovating new technologies? What does that mean? 

The paper and wood products industry is making major investments to continue the best use of recycled fiber in our products. In fact, about $5 billion in manufacturing infrastructure investments by 2023 have been planned or announced. That totals nearly $2.5 million per day in investments.  

One exciting innovation is Georgia-Pacific's Juno Technology. This game-changing technology can recycle up to 90% of waste that is diverted and otherwise would be burned or buried. Juno can recycle paper cups and paper-based products with food contamination. No additional sorting is needed!  

I’ve read news articles recently claiming some major brands are trying to scale back on paper cup usage in favor of reusables. Why would they do that? 

Consumers are demanding sustainability, and brands are trying to be responsive to consumer preferences. Recyclable paper products make an important contribution to advancing sustainability, as reusable products can as well. Unlike reusable options available today, paper cups are made from renewable resources and can be recycled at mills across the country.

We know all too well that many products, including reusable products, marketed as recyclable end up in landfills or oceans. Our industry is working harder than ever to build the infrastructure and develop the practices that make paper the best choice for anyone who cares about the future of our planet. 

But my coffee shop offers me a discount to use a reusable cup. Why shouldn’t I take advantage? 

First of all, paper cups are a more convenient, clean and hygienic option for people on-the-go. What's less obvious to most of us is that paper cups are made from a renewable resource – trees.

In other words, they are made with wood fiber from sustainably managed forests, which is a 100% renewable resource. Competing reusable cups rely on fossil-based, non-renewable or non-recyclable materials. 

How do I know if paper cups are recycled in my community? 

Always be sure to check your local guidelines! More communities are adding cups to their collection programs all the time. 

Want more information on why paper cups are a sustainable choice? We’ve got you covered.


The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recycle resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative—Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures nearly $300 billion in products annually and employs approximately 950,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $60 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states. Visit AF&PA online at afandpa.org or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper.


Source: AF&PA