Disposable Cups Comparison

Disposable Cups Comparison: Paper vs. Plastic vs. Polystyrene 

In the highly competitive restaurant & catering business, you’re looking for anything to set you apart from the competition. Even the packaging you use can give your eatery an edge! According to a 2021 study by Adweek, “62% of respondents said they’d have a better opinion of a brand that switched to recyclable packaging and utensils.” Below, we’ll compare some of the most popular materials for disposable cups and lids. Richmond Advantage makes it easy to get the consumables your business needs to delight your customers and grow your brand. 

Paper Cups

Finish: Opaque

Strength: ✔✔

Eco-Friendly? ✔✔ 

Ideal for Cold Drinks? Yes

Ideal for Hot Drinks? Yes

Price: $

Paper cups with a wax or plastic coating to prevent leaks and insulate liquids are the classic choice for hot beverages. For very hot beverages, a cardboard sleeve may be added to provide additional insulation for customers’ comfort. 

Paper is a renewable and sustainable resource. However, because of the plastic lining, paper cups aren’t always the most environmentally friendly option. They can only be recycled in some facilities and the plastic lining prevents the cup from being entirely biodegradable. 

Richmond Advantage is proud to offer paper hot drink cups lined with a plant-based bioplastic called PLA. That makes them 100% compostable, unlike ordinary paper cups. 

 

PET Cups

Finish: Clear

Strength: ✔✔✔

Eco-Friendly? ✔✔ 

Ideal for Cold Drinks? Yes

Ideal for Hot Drinks? No

Price: $$

PET is a durable, shatter-proof and crystal-clear plastic. PET cups are popular for serving cold beverages like sodas, juices and smoothies. Like most plastic cups, PET cups are recyclable and quite sustainable. rPET plastic is made entirely from post-consumer recycled materials. 

Serving hot beverages in PET plastic cups may not be the best choice. The thin material doesn’t provide as much protection for customers’ hands. Unlike polypropylene cups, with a hot enough liquid, PET plastic can warp and deform from the heat.

That said, PET plastic is stronger, sturdier and clearer for a more premium look and feel for your customers. PET cups are ideal for showing off tantalizing cold beverages like smoothies, bubble teas and iced coffees. 

 

PLA Cups

Finish: Clear

Strength: ✔✔

Eco-Friendly? ✔✔✔ 

Ideal for Cold Drinks? Yes

Ideal for Hot Drinks? No

Price: $$$

PLA is a bioplastic made from plant-based materials derived from corn. That means, unlike ordinary plastics, PLA is biodegradable. That means these cups can be entirely composted. Our PLA plastic cups are certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute. They’re even labeled as such so your customers won’t miss your commitment to renewable materials and eco-friendliness. We even offer PLA-lined paper cups that are also labeled 100% compostable.

PLA cups aren’t quite as durable as PET cups. Similarly, they’re not ideal for serving very hot beverages. For cold drinks, PLA cups may be the most eco-friendly yet versatile option.

 

Polystyrene Cups

Finish: Translucent

Strength:

Eco-Friendly?

Ideal for Cold Drinks? Yes

Ideal for Hot Drinks? No

Price: $

Polystyrene is the oldest plastic used for beverage containers. It’s very affordable and easily disposable. Polystyrene is suitable for cold beverages, but it’s got a cloudy appearance and is more brittle and prone to being crushed than PET or PLA plastic cups. If you’re looking for affordable water cups, Polystyrene cups are your most economical choice.

Glove Type

Durability

Strength

Eco-Friendly?

Cold Drinks

Hot Drinks

Price

Paper Cups

Opaque

✔✔

✔✔

Yes 

Yes 

$

PET Cups

Clear

✔✔✔ 

✔✔ 

Yes 

No

$$

PLA Cups

Clear

✔✔

✔✔✔ 

Yes 

No

$$$

Polystyrene Cups

Translucent

Yes 

No

$

 

FAQs:

What is a PET Cup?

PET Cups are made from a modern, more durable and more sustainable plastic, Polyethylene Terephthalate. It’s stronger, more easily recyclable and has a crystal-clear finish unlike other plastic materials like Polypropylene and Polystyrene. 

 

Are Paper Cups Recyclable?

Generally speaking, paper cups cannot be recycled. That’s because of the plastic lining inside the paper cup that makes it leakproof. Some facilities, like Denver’s recycling facility as of 2018, can now recycle such paper cups. In most locations, however, paper coffee cups are bound for landfills. Instead, we recommend paper cups lined with PLA bioplastic which is entirely biodegradable and compostable. 

 

What Are Biodegradable Cups Made Of?

Biodegradable cups can be made from a variety of plant-based materials like wood, sugarcane, paper and bioplastics like PLA. Richmond Advantage proudly offers cold cups made entirely from plant-based PLA plastic as well as paper hot cups lined with a PLA lining that can be composted. 

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