Zero-waste fail? I have been recycling takeaway coffee cups over the last few weeks, not counting them in my daily landfill tally. But are takeaway coffee cups recyclable? The plastic lids are definitely recyclable. But what about the cardboard cup? There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there. The council’s recycling guide – Brisbane’s best recycling guide 2013 – states that cardboard coffee cups are recyclable. But QUT’s guide to recycling says that some coffee cups are recyclable, but not ones that are waxed. I’ve seen many other sites saying the same thing. They recommend to run your fingernail along the cup to see if it is waxed. Which really isn’t helpful if you don’t have anything to compare it to! I have no idea of the cardboard coffee cup sitting next to me as I type this is recyclable or not….
Regardless of whether it is recyclable, the water and carbon footprint of paper cups is something that should be considered. Reusable cups seem to the way to go. But be warned – a research article on the energy impacts of reusable cups concluded that you would need to reuse a ceramic cup hundreds of times before the energy gains would be realised, over the use of polystyrene cups. Of course, this isn’t considering water or landfill impacts, but it does go to show that sustainable choices are complicated.
So from here on in, I’m packing my recyclable cup everyday.