Coffee cups should not be put in your household recycling bin*. The best way to reduce disposable coffee cup waste is to use a reusable cup or crockery.
Use the directory below to find recycling drop-off points for coffee cups (and other kinds of paper cups), which are located around Australia.
*There are a handful of councils in Australia that do accept coffee cups in kerbside recycling (i.e., your household recycling bin). Check directly with your council.
Why Should I Recycle My Coffee Cups?
Australians throw away 2.7 million coffee cups every day, with many being littered. When they are sent to landfill, the cardboard fibre of the cup releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
How to recycle coffee cups
While coffee cups are not accepted in most council kerbside recycling bins (check directly with your council to see if you can recycle yours at home), they can be recycled through specialised recycling programs.
Simply Cups has partnered with 7-Eleven and various shopping centres, schools, and community groups to provide the public with more than 1,400 recycling drop-off locations for disposable coffee cups, including compostable cups.
Simply Cups also accepts hot drink cups (hot chocolate, tea, etc.), takeaway soft drink cups, milkshake cups, Slurpee cups, and plant-based paper cups. Coffee cup lids and drinking straws are only accepted at participating 7-Eleven stores. Use the directory above to find a drop-off point near you.
The RecycleMe program by Detpak is a coffee cup collection and recycling system specific to RecycleMe branded cups. Collection bins are located in participating outlets for customers to recycle both the lid and cup.
What happens when the coffee cups are recycled?
Simply Cups recycles used coffee cups into materials that are used to make asphalt, furniture, car park bumpers, and even reusable coffee cups.
Detpak, through the RecycleMe program, turn their coffee cups into recycled paper products and the lids into recycled plastic products such as photo frames.
WHY CAN’T I RECYCLE MY COFFEE CUPS AT HOME?
Disposable coffee cups are currently only accepted for recycling in a handful of council collections (check with your council directly to see if you can recycle yours at home). The vast majority of councils do not accept coffee cups in kerbside recycling due to their thin plastic lining (sometimes oil or plant-based) which requires specific recycling equipment to separate it from the paper so both materials can be recycled.
Unfortunately, Australia does not currently have the infrastructure to process the huge quantity of single-use coffee cups we use and throw away (estimated to be around 1 billion each year). When coffee cups are incorrectly placed in household recycling bins, they can contaminate and degrade the quality of the recycling.
Other ways to reduce coffee cup waste
Recycling is a great way to prevent waste from going to landfill, but reducing the amount of disposable cups you use will have an even better environmental impact.
Australians can reduce their coffee cup waste by using a reusable coffee cup such as a KeepCup or rCUP (rCUPs are made from used coffee cups collected by Simply Cups).
You can also choose to buy coffee from cafes that are making an effort to reduce their environmental impact by searching Responsible Cafes. The cafes are given ratings based on their positive environmental actions such as composting coffee grounds and using ethically sourced coffee beans.