YES, Fast Food Cups and Cartons are Now Recyclable Curbside for more than 70% of Michigan!
Good news! More than 70% of Michigan households can now conveniently recycle paper cups and cartons in their curbside bins, keeping millions of juice and milk containers, fast food soda cups, and Starbucks coffee cups out of the landfill. That includes the City of Detroit. However, the lids and straws should still be discarded.
We no longer accept any paper cups, paper cartons, or TetraPaks in our retail point of sale recycling program, since most Michiganders can now recycle these items curbside.
Unfortunately, there's still a lot of confusion about what is and is not accepted in curbside bins. Until recently, the plastic coating on paper cups and the multilayered construction of cartons and Tetrapaks rendered them unrecyclable curbside. A recently article published around Earth Day this year on WDIV Channel 4's ClickOn Detroit website listed paper cups and cartons as items under the heading of "You can’t recycle these 7 things curbside in Michigan, even though you want to". That's not the case anymore - more than 70% of Michigan can now recycle BOTH of these items curbside.
Greasy, Cheesy Pizza Boxes are Also Recyclable Curbside
Pizza boxes are another curbside recyclable item surrounded by misinformation. There's a lot of confusion right now about pizza boxes. The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), which is the national trade association of the paper and wood products industry, has said that the typical amount of residual grease and cheese left in pizza boxes does not in impede recycling of the entire box (of course, pizza slices and crusts should be removed).
This guidance was based on a study done by WestRock, the second largest packaging company in the U.S. and the supplier of Ann Arbor-based Domino's Pizza. You can see the study here: https://www.westrock.com/greasecheesestudy
WestRock CEO Heidi Brock said, "We encourage communities to update their residential recycling programs’ guidelines to explicitly accept pizza boxes that are free of food (pizza slices and crust)."
Always adhere to your community's recycling guidelines, but if your community does not accept pizza boxes with grease and cheese or tells you to only recycle to top but throw away the dirty bottom, this is a great opportunity to ask questions and find out why, when the companies that actually buy the used cardboard to make it into new products are saying they can deal with the grease and cheese.
What's the Better Option for Cups - Conventional or Compostable?
So, now that paper cups are actually recyclable, should you use compostable cups or conventional paper cups for your next party or event?
Conventional Paper Cup Pros
Conventional paper cups are cheaper - a LOT cheaper
There is much more infrastructure to recycle them - most people do not have access to a commercial composting facility to compost cups (you cannot compost compostable cups in a home compost pile)
You can recycle them at home and not have to pay extra money to do so or make a special trip
Conventional Paper Cup Cons
The lids are unrecyclable. You can get compostable PLA lids to go with compostable cups.
If all the other disposables at your event are compostable (the plates, bowls, cutlery, etc.), except the cups are recyclable, it can create confusion for guests and contamination in your bins. If you're using compostable disposables, it's best to also go with a compostable cup. Then, guests can just toss everything into the compost bins without having to sort.