Recycling Q&A: Waxy paper

Q: Can you educate us about the difference between waxy coffee cups (like Starbucks cups) which aren’t allowed and seemingly waxy milk cartons which are on the posters as allowable?

A: During the sorting process at recycling facilities, cartons behave more like a bottle or can and more easily make it to the container side of the facility while smooshed/smaller cups can get mixed in with newspaper and office paper. This gives polyethylene-averse paper pulpers the willies.

Secondly , cartons are coated on both sides with polyethylene, while coffee cups are coated only on the inside; this can confuse automatic sorting equipment. Finally, the graphics on cartons are printed on the plastic layer while any ink on coffee cups is directly on the paper. Some mills aren’t equipped to de-ink paper, so they give coffee cups the cold shoulder.

Kristin Marino from Waste Management

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