Paper Cups

Paper Cups, Cartons & Containers are NOW recyclable in ACC

Paper Cups are recyclable

Paper cups used for coffee and soft drinks can now be collected for recycling in Athens-Clarke County. Athens-Clarke County becomes the first community in Georgia to add paper cups to its recycling program, thanks to a partnership with the Foodservice Packaging Institute. Athens-Clarke County residents are encouraged to clean and empty their paper coffee and soda cups, and place in their recycling cart or drop them off at one of the county's recycling centers. In addition to paper cups, clean and empty paper food containers and paper items, such as cup carriers and egg cartons, are now accepted in recycling carts. As with all recyclables, they must be clean and empty to be recycled.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are paper cups recyclable?

In Athens, yes. But not everywhere - yet. Paper cups are made from fiber that is desirable to paper recycling mills. There are a growing number of mills that accept and process poly-coated cups when included in existing bales such as Sorted Office Paper (SOP), Residential Mixed Paper (RMP) and Cartons (Grade 52). However, not all mills are able to separate the plastic coating found on cups that is used to prevent liquid from leaking out or soaking through the paper. So, the industry is also working to develop coatings for cups that may be more easily processed by all mills. Check with your local recycling program. If paper cups are accepted, be sure your cup is empty before placing in your recycling bin or cart.

Recycle Paper Cups cling

What’s the difference between a paper carton and a paper cup?

The Layers of a CartonIn Athens, they are both accepted for recycling. Paper beverage cartons include milk and juice cartons, energy drinks, juice boxes, and even wine can be found in these containers. There are two basic types of beverage cartons – the gable top cartons that require refrigeration, and the aseptic containers that do not require refrigeration. As the illustration shows, these are complicated little containers! For starters, these do not contain a wax coating. The refrigerated gable top containers have layers of paper and plastic – the #4 low density polyethylene often found in plastic grocery bags. They are approx. 80% paper, and 20% plastic. The shelf-stable aseptic cartons add a very thin layer of aluminum to maintain product freshness without refrigeration. These are about 70% paper, 20% plastic, and the rest is aluminum. The aluminum helps make the container more rigid, contributing to a long shelf life. To answer most people’s first question, ‘Are these recyclable,’ the answer is yes – in Athens-Clarke County. They are not included in many recycling programs. Here in Athens, both types of containers are included with our mixed paper, which includes junk mail, magazines, newspaper. These bales are sold to Pratt Industries in Conyers, GA. Their paper mill makes cardboard for Amazon and Domino’s Pizza, among others. The plastic and aluminum does not truly get recycled, but after being separated from the paper fiber it is burned along with other residue to generate refrigerated beverages, energy used to run the huge paper mill.

For the full story, read our In The Loop Newsletter, Issue 1.