Skip to main content

Can Paper Cups be Recycled?

Did you order a milkshake to-go and get it in a paper cup? What about your morning coffee or tea?

Paper cups are a convenient everyday item, but you might be wondering, can paper cups be recycled?

Let’s explore the facts about paper cup recycling.

Paper Mills Can Recycle Paper Cups

Recycling and trash bins on a curb
mills across North America recycle paper cups

Yes, paper cups are recyclable. Paper mills want the fiber in a paper cup back to recycle it.

There are about 40 mills across North America that recycle paper cups. The technology and infrastructure needed to increase paper cup recycling collection are rapidly developing.

Background color
Card Style
Image Placement

Major Cities Coast-to-Coast Accept Paper Cups

Several cities accept paper cups in their recycling programs. The list of cities includes:

  • New York City
  • Seattle
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Atlanta
  • Detroit

And more! The list of communities that accept paper cups for recycling continues to grow.

Check your local recycling rules to see if paper cups are accepted in your area.

Working Together to Increase Paper Cup Recycling Access

AF&PA is a member of the Paper Cup Alliance (PCA). The PCA was formed in 2018 and works to increase paper cup recycling in the U.S. by:

  • Expanding Recycling Programs: Collaborate with cities and recycling facilities to expand access to paper cup recycling.
  • Understanding Paper Cup Recycling: Collaborate with mills and industry stakeholders to examine if and how paper cups can be repulped.
  • Raising Awareness: Educate about the recyclability of paper cups.

PCA continues to work with mills to determine if they can successfully recycle paper cups.

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recyclable resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative —Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper