How to Dispose of Coffee Cups

March 07, 2018

Just when we think we’ve got the hang of how to properly dispose of coffee cups, we find a new café that produces entirely different products.  Fortunately, at SFU, ALL coffee cups are compostable.  But, off campus, some are made from styrofoam and others from compostable, plant-based materials.  And it’s not just the cup we have to contend with.  There’s also the cardboard sleeve and the lid – sometimes made from recyclable plastic, sometimes not. 

500 billion cups of coffee are sold every day.  Over 1.6 billion disposable coffee cups thrown out each year in Canada alone.  50 million trees and 33 billion gallons of water are used to produce North America’s disposable coffee cups each year, and buying just one disposable cup of coffee per day creates over 10kg of garbage each year.  So how can we contribute without having to give up that morning kick-start?  The best thing to do is bring your own mug and purchase fair trade coffee on campus.  If you do find yourself with a disposable mug in hand, try the steps:


Divide into Three

Divide the cup into three parts and dispose as follows:

  1. The Sleeve:  Made of cardboard these can go into yellow or mixed paper bins
  2. The Lid: All plastic lids, regardless of number, are recyclable and go into the blue bins
  3. The Cup:  Because every cup is made of different materials determining how to dispose of the cup can be the most confusing part.  So, how can you determine whether a cup is compostable?


Cups on Campus

SFU now composts all coffee cups!  The University’s four-stream Zero Waste stations are in line with those of Metro Vancouver and, as a result of recent changes to provincial recycling regulations that allow SFU's waste haulers and processors to accept more materials, these streams accept coffee cups in the food scraps & compostable bin.  The coffee cups are composted in a commercial compost facility that is able to screen out any plastic or wax residue remaining at the end of the process.


Cups off Campus                                         

All paper cups and those clearly marked as compostable can be composted.  The only ones that can't are styrofoam (plastic-lined paper cups are fine).