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What’s in your cup?

What’s in your cup?

Happy New Year! If you celebrated the New Year by having a house party, I hope you took the time to capture recycling. If so, you might have found yourself in a conundrum, “Can I recycle this red Solo cup?” Take a minute to consider the environmental impact of this type of cup.

First, the question of how long does it take for these cups to decompose. The Toby Keith lyric says, “A Red Solo Cup is cheap and disposable, in 14 years they are decomposable.” While the song is humorous, experts agree that it severely understates the decomposition process of such an item, by hundreds of years!

You may think, “Well, that’s why I recycle my disposable cups.” Red Solo Cups are labeled #6 and cannot be recycled in our community. There are alternatives that are labeled #1 or #5, and these cups are recyclable when clean. Not sure where to find the magic number? It’s easy, make sure your cup is empty, flip it over so you can view the bottom and inside the recycling symbol is the number.

Below is the numbered list of plastics with name, abbreviation, and a common item that is recyclable at the Recycling Center and curbside in Pearland:

  • #1- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)- Water bottle
  • #2- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)- Milk jug
  • #3- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)- Shampoo bottle
  • #4- Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)- Squeezable bottle
  • #5- Polypropylene (PP)- Yogurt cup
  • #7- Other- Mixed plastics

*Please note: All containers listed above must be clean and dry before recycling.

The best way to avoid this number game altogether is to ‘move from recycling to reusing’. Reusable cups have become commonplace from ceramic and glass to stainless steel and plastic. Although manufacturing reusable cups has a greater environmental impact, the average breaking point versus a disposable cup comes after just 24 uses, shown from a study by engineer Pablo Paster. Considering most reusable cups are designed for 3,000 uses, the positive environmental impact of reusable cups can be enormous.

Disposable cups have been around for over a century. Imagine how many there are taking up space in our landfill. Please consider the following when making future purchases. Is the packaging recyclable in my community? Is there something else I can buy that will have less impact on the environment? Is there a reusable option?

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