Over 2.5 billion cardboard coffee cups are disposed of in landfill every year. Of these, only 0.25% are recycled properly. In our Taken-To-Go culture which values morning coffee runs, the average Canadian consumes 643 cups of coffee per year.
Currently, polyethylene (PE)-coated cardboard cups, which are not recyclable or compostable due to lack of scalable technology to separate the plastic from the paper exterior, are most commonly used. The vast majority of these cups go straight to landfill.
However, another option exists. The Poly Lactic Acid (PLA)-coated cardboard cup, which is compostable and made with the same manufacturing equipment as the PE-coated cup, costs only $0.03 USD more than the PE-coated cup.
If we switched from PE-coated cups to PLA-coated cups, Canada could divert 38,139 tones of landfill per year. But we haven’t, and we don’t. Why? Though differently produced, PLA-coated cups must be industrially composted in order to be recycled. Most municipalities lack this infrastructure in each waste management district.