From practical to purposeful, disposable cups come in a myriad of materials, styles, sizes, and colors. However, with all the options out there, how do you know what type of cup is right for you? Let’s start by covering some basic terminology.


Biodegradable – A product that is biodegradable can be naturally broken down by microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi, and absorbed back into the ecosystem. These products are composed primarily of naturally-occurring constituent parts, and are often considered “green” or “eco-friendly” products.

Compostable – Items are considered compostable when they can be placed into a composition of decaying biodegradable materials, and eventually turn into a nutrient-rich material. Compostable products decompose and decay at the same rate as paper without releasing harmful toxins, making them a “green” option for your commercial business.

Degradable– Degradable products are oil-based and cannot break down naturally like biodegradable items can. Rather, degradable products are broken down through chemical reactions in anaerobic environments. Their decomposition results in water, carbon dioxide, biomass, or trace elements.

PET– PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate. Part of the polyester family, it is used to make synthetic fibers as well as food and beverage containers. Products made with PET are lightweight and are proficient at blocking gases, solvents, and moisture. They are also strong and impact-resistant. Products made from PET can also be recycled.

Poly-Coated – The term poly-coated is often used when referring to a material that has been coated in polyethylene. Poly-coated materials are more stable, smooth, and moisture resistant than non-coated materials, and typically feature a single or double layer of polyethylene, depending on the quality and durability desired.

Post-Consumer Recycled Content – Post-consumer recycled content is material that has been used and discarded by the consumer, and then saved and turned into a completely new product. Once the initial product completes its life cycle as a consumer item, it is recycled and then made into another product, such as a paper or plastic cup.

Recyclable – Recyclable simply means that a product can be reused and made into something else, something new. To identify recyclable products, the universal recycling logo/symbol should be featured on the packaging. There are seven resin identification codes that can also be found on recyclable plastic packaging. These are codes that each refer to what type of plastic the packaging uses. The codes can then be referenced against the codes available for recycling by your local authority/council.

Wax-Coated – Featuring a leak-resistant wax coating, wax-coated products offer added strength and sturdiness, similar to those that are poly-coated. These products are often sprayed on all sides with wax and work especially well in cold applications.