What are PLA Lined Biodegradable Coffee Cups Made of?

Let's Talk About PLA Lined Bio Coffee Cups

What are coffee cups made of?

Most people think that disposable coffee cups are made of 100% paper. Not entirely true. While the main ingredient of a coffee cup is paper which forms the walls and base of the cup, it is no ordinary paper. It is actually lined with a coat of plastic which prevents hot liquid from penetrating through the cup and turning it useless. 

Traditionally, disposable coffee cups were used by hospitals where maintaining personal hygiene and stopping the transfer of germs through shared utensils was of utmost importance. However, with an increasing takeaway culture the concept spread to fast food chains like McDonalds. Disposable coffee cups were useful since the customer could carry their drink outside and consume it at their own pace. 

Why does a coffee cup pose problem?

Coffee cups are traditionally lined with PE (Polyethylene), which is a petrochemical based coating of plastic used to prevent leakage in a disposable paper cup. PE plastics are made of oil which is generated from a non-renewable resource, fossils. In addition, extraction of oil leads to environmental degradation. Processes such as fracking (using high water pressure to extract oil from the deepest pools of Earth) has been a primary cause of groundwater pollution upon which many communities depend and acts as their source of drinking water. 

Although PE is a recyclable material, most coffee cups end up in landfills and are never recycled. Also, very few waste management companies specialize in recycling coffee cups as they need to separate the plastic lining from paper in order to successfully recycle. 

Is there a solution to this problem?


Bio Cups present themselves as a solution to the problem of plastic waste. Unlike traditional coffee cups, Bio Cups are lined with a PLA plastic coating. PLA (Polylactic Acid) plastic is made of plant-based renewable resources such as sugarcane starch and bamboo. As a result, PLA plastic is often hailed as an eco-friendly packaging solution for fast food restaurants, cafes and food businesses. 

On the recycling front, the good news is- PLA lined Bio Cups are compostable! 

That's right, these cups degrade and dissolve back into the soil after being exposed to certain conditions. 

However, there is still a problem. 

Many waste management composting facilities are unequipped in processing PLA plastics. Only a handful of facilities specialize in composting of degradable plastics. 

In addition, due to lack of knowledge around PLA plastics and the question over whether they are recyclable or compostable, many bio cups are currently being packed into landfills. Or worse, they end up in standard recycling facilities and contaminate the traditional PE plastic pile rendering it unfit for recycling. 

In light of the compostability of PLA Bio cups and it's advantage of being plant-based, we cannot deny that it is a positive step in environmental protection. Our efforts of separating PLA plastics from PE plastics will create benefit in future as the composting infrastructure grows and awareness increases. 

If you are looking to shop our Bio Cups range, please follow this link.

Looking for custom printed coffee cups? We have a great range of branded packaging like single-wall and double-wall printed coffee cups, takeaway paper bags, cold PET cups and more. Please visit this link for more information.