Interested in recycling cups?

Please be advised that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Cup Movement campaign is officially on hold. If you are interested in reducing cup waste, either now or in the future, please contact us for an update.

About cup recycling

Paper cups, which are a major proportion of the single-use cups in circulation, require a special process to be recycled. This is because the inside of the cup is coated with a type of plastic film (polyethylene) which keeps the liquid in the cup and stops the rest of the material getting soggy. Most paper processing plants are unable to separate this out, which means that paper cups cannot be recycled with common streams such as paper or mixed recycling but must be collected and processed separately.

Cup Movement is working to make cup recycling more widely available by working with established recycling partners.

If you are a business interested in recycling paper cups, read on to find out which option might work best for you:

Simply Cups Scheme

Following the establishment of two specialist cup recycling plants, Simply Cups has developed and operates a recycling service for both paper and plastic cups. Through Cup Movement, we are working with them to make this available in Scotland, providing a solution that will massively increase the current 4% recycling rate for single-use cups.

How does the Simply Cups collection and recycling service work?

As a member of Cup Movement, one of the benefits you will receive is access to special rates for the Simply Cups recycling service. The cost of the recycling service will vary depending on your specific needs and volume of cups to be recycled.

Step 1

To enable the cups to be collected and recycled, they first need to be separated from the rest of your waste. There are two ways to do this:

  • You can purchase public facing cup recycling bins from Simply Cups for your staff / customers to use. There are a variety of shapes and sizes for these and you can view the full range along with the prices on the Simply Cups website.
  • You can choose to separate the cups in a way that is convenient to you or sort your cups from general bins, putting the cups into a specific container*.

*The most important part of this process is that the cups are separated from all other waste types. The single-use cups can only be recycled if they not contaminated with other waste.

Step 2

Simply Cups requires all cups to be placed inside their bin sacks. If cups are stacked in these bags they will hold 500 cups, but they will only hold around 100 unstacked cups. There is a small cost for these sacks which covers the cost of collecting and recycling the cups. If the cups are sorted back of house, they will still need to be placed in the bin sacks.

Step 3

The bin sacks need to be stored in a separate container in your bin store area. Simply Cups provide a bin rental service if you require an additional bin for the cups. Simply Cups will agree a collection frequency with you that suits your specific needs and requirements.

Step 4

Your cups will be collected by ScotWaste, who bulk and bale them before taking them to a recycling facility, where they are shredded and either turned into new paper or mixed with other recycled plastics and made into new products.

Coffee Cup Drop Box

Created by DS Smith, the Coffee Cup Drop Box is an innovative solution for recycling smaller volumes of paper cups.

Due to a different recycling process, the Drop Box can recycle both compostable PLA lined cups, as well as regular paper cups that are lined with polyethylene (PE).

These compact, low-cost boxes are 100% recycled and fit up to 700 cups. Once full, they can be uplifted free of charge.

Try it for free

This trial is currently on hold, pending the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cup Movement partners Excel Vending are giving out 2oo free boxes as part of a trial for small to medium businesses wishing to try out cup recycling:

  • If you are based in Glasgow, you can sign up to order a free Dop Box pack through the Excel Vending website.
  • In addition to your boxes, you will receive support resources from Cup Movement to help you spread the word and make sure your boxes are a success.
  • All participants in the trial will be asked to complete a user survey to help us gather important feedback and insights and will also have the option to feature in our case study

The boxes can only take empty cups, so they need to be positioned near a kitchen area or similar, to allow for liquids and lids to be disposed of separately.

If you're interested in participating in this exciting trial, you can sign-up for a free two-box starter pack here:


Cup Movement: partners and industry

Find out who we are working with on our Cup Movement.


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