All That Shines Is Not Gold

Appeared in San Fernando Valley Sierra Club Chapter newsletter, Mar-Apr 2007

Related article: Paper Cups Go Green.

All That Shines Is Not Gold
(#11 of the Plastic Plague Series)
by Sarah S. Mosko, Ph.D.

If your paper cup has a plastic lining, it will end up in the landfill.

If your paper cup has a plastic lining, it will end up in the landfill.

Did you ever notice the shiny lining on the inside of those paper cups designed for hot beverages . . the ones you get at your favorite specialty coffee store? Although the lining’s purpose is noble (prevents the liquid from seeping through the paper), its presence is the very reason those paper cups all end up in landfills.

Manufacturers tell me the lining is typically a polyethylene resin or some other petroleum-based emulsion. As such, it is a contaminant that prevents recycling as a paper item, and like petroleum-based plastics, it doesn’t biodegrade so is not appropriate for composting.

Such resins also coat milk cartons and many paper picnic products, thus preventing you from putting them in your curbside recycling bin or your backyard compost.

The good news is that some progressive corporations are working to find a starch-based coating that can withstand hot temperatures and will also completely breakdown in a compost pile. In the meantime, all you specialty coffee store connoisseurs (and addicts) can do your part to reduce needless waste by bringing your own travel mug in for a fill – some coffee stores (like Starbucks) not only welcome this but even give you 10 cents off! And when you purchase supplies for picnics, choose a brand like Chinet/Huhtamaki that offers unlined paper plates and bowls that are biodegradable and compostable.

To participate in a California-based statewide plastics reduction campaign, contact Earth Resource Foundation or call (949) 645-5163.

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