The Future of Single-use Paper Coffee Cups: Current Progress and Outlook

Nick Triantafillopoulos, Alexander A. Koukoulas


The expanded use of environmentally friendly and sustainable foodservice packaging continues to be a prime focus of stakeholders across the foodservice value chain. Paper-based coffee cups is one product segment where effective recycling of waste cups remains elusive. As a result, material substitutes for polyethylene liners are emerging to solve the problem of waste cups. In this paper, current and emerging commercial material technologies used in the production of paper-based coffee cups that are readily recyclable with other paper grades are reviewed. Many of these material solutions are also compostable. Special attention is paid to the rapidly evolving, alternative large-scale production of bioplastics. Multiple efforts to effectively develop a more environmentally friendly paper cup are also examined. It is clear that broad adoption of proposed solutions will require an integrated commitment and approach to circular economics. Specifically, this includes: changes in consumer behavior; brand owner initiatives to meet sustainability goals; governmental policies that limit or forbid use of fossil-based cups; and easily accessible infrastructures at the consumer level for the collection, separation, and processing of biodegradable cups.


Paper coffee cups; Sustainable foodservice packaging; Barrier coatings; Waterbased coatings; Bioplastics

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Welcome to BioResources! This online, peer-reviewed journal is devoted to the science and engineering of biomaterials and chemicals from lignocellulosic sources for new end uses and new capabilities. The editors of BioResources would be very happy to assist you during the process of submitting or reviewing articles. Please note that logging in is required in order to submit or review articles. Martin A. Hubbe, (919) 513-3022,; Lucian A. Lucia, (919) 515-7707, URLs:; ISSN: 1930-2126