With the growing number of people opting out of using plastic, the number of more environmentally friendly disposable products has exploded. As a result, many people wonder whether compostable coffee cups, straws, and cutlery can be thrown away with food and garden waste and compost compostable cups at home. As more coffee shops open throughout the world, the number of cups sold and dumped continues to rise. Even though most cups are labelled as recyclable, they cannot be recycled. Although the cups appear to be made of cardboard, they are lined with plastic to prevent leakage. Since the two layers are glued together, recycling is challenging. Therefore, companies are coming up with the option of compostable cups for home, which can be easily recycled. But it has turned out the other way. It seems out that those compostable cups at home and other compostable packaging products aren’t quite as compostable as they seem. If you have a special Hot bin, these things cannot be included in your curbside recycling or home compost bins. Instead, they must be sent to composting facilities for commercial use.
Can one compost compostable cups at home?
Compostable or biodegradable cups, straws, and bowls cannot be thrown away with your food or garden waste, regardless of the name. Whatever the cups have been labelled, the truth is they cannot be composted at home. Plastic substitutes have exploded in popularity, with transparent cups and disposable cutlery bearing the words “Compostable” emblazoned on them. But the reality is different. Since they are made of natural materials and therefore compostable, coffee cups take years to decompose. In contrast, food and garden waste take just six weeks at an In-Vessel Composting facility.
Apart from food and garden waste, the only things you can place in your food and garden bin are compostable food bags with the EN13432 seedling logo on them, which are used to line the kitchen food cadd. It had only been a few years since the now-ubiquitous compostable plastic cups made from corn and potato starch were launched. Not only were these cups and cutlery made from plants, but they also broke down quickly in compost heaps. But later, it was found that one thing active biota could not decompose? And that is the plastic-looking cup. It’s known as PLA or TPLA-based compostable plastics, and it won’t break down without a lot of extra heat for a long time. Our compost piles reach a maximum temperature of 170 degrees. Compostable cutlery and plastic-looking cups won’t begin to decompose before 200 degrees, or higher temperatures are reached — temperatures that are unlikely to occur in a backyard compost pile and not in a landfill.
These cups can only be composted if they are sent directly to a commercial composter. They’ll need more heat there, and it’ll take 3–6 months for them to decompose. This improbable scenario also necessitates the even more improbable move of processing and arranging them via a third waste stream. Almost every time you see these items at work, home, school, or a big group, they will almost certainly end up in the landfill, where they will never decompose. They can even perplex users and end up in the recycling bin, contaminating other poly-based items.
Where can the compostable cups be composted then?
Customers are not told how to dispose of compostable cups at home, even though they are labelled as such. It’s not as simple as you would expect. The cups and lids are compostable in industrial composting facilities. If you have a brown bin at home or a composting bin at work, this is the ideal place. However, if you’re on the go, you’re unlikely to have access to a food and compostable waste bin. If you put it in a recyclables container, it will contaminate the other contents (not least because the cup will probably have some coffee stains). Contrary to popular belief, compostable cups at home do not decompose appropriately in landfills, so throwing them in the regular trash isn’t an option. However, for the time being, this is the best location for them.
How about composting at home?
However, nothing is stopping you from composting these at home. We suggest shredding the packaging in a food processor after breaking it up by hand. This increases the available surface area for bacteria, speeding up the composting process. Mix in with the rest of the trash in your bin. Coffee cups can take up to a year to decompose in commercial facilities, so it’ll likely take longer in a typical home compost bin. If you’ve ever tried composting eggshells, you know that not all decomposes at the same pace. We don’t see why you couldn’t do it yourself with an unusual coffee cup if you have the patience.
Compostable waste is also waste.
Compostable cups for home, like other recyclable objects, help to hide a significant point. Even if it does not end up in a landfill, all waste is waste. These compostable cups at home require resources to manufacture and ship and help to dispose of them at the end of their useful lives. Although it’s encouraging to see attempts to eliminate single-use products, we should also try to avoid short-life items in general as consumers. We can do this by making more deliberate decisions.
So wherein lies the solution?
Composting can indeed be perplexing, but you can bring it to its fullest advantage with the right knowledge.
- Single-use packaging supports compostable packaging! Reduce the amount of compost you use and replace it with more recycled products.
- Put it in the garbage if you don’t know where it should go and can’t find a response after doing some analysis. If you throw PLA in the recycling, it contaminates the system, rendering the other items you’ve carefully sorted useless!
- Compostable at home is not the same as compostable in a commercial environment. It’s pretty cool to be able to process your waste at home with home compost. Businesses that use compostable home materials provide responsible waste-closing pathways for their products.
- Recycling multilayered packaging is much more difficult. It cannot be quickly sorted or recycled. It cannot be easily sorted or recycled. At the very least, it can be composted with a compostable cup (in the right conditions). In contrast, it is unquestionably the better choice!
Eventually, we can make things right by being conscious of our choices. Simple things which we as individuals can do like avoiding to get it in the first place. Make personal rules for yourself and follow them. If you do use compostables, be sure to place them in the appropriate container! If no commercial compost bin is open, compostables must be disposed of in the landfill! Instead of using a disposable vessel, take advantage of this time to relax and think about how great you are for the environment. Encourage local cafes to turn to compostable coffee cups and reward customers who bring their reusable cups with a discount. If you don’t have access to a composting facility where you live, find a nearby organisation that will accept your scraps. All these small little actions can help the environment.