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Denver Recycles Now Accepting Paper Cups

Did you know that 50 billion paper coffee cups end up in U.S. landfills every year? Despite being made mostly of paper, most paper cups include a plastic lining to help insulate and prevent leaks.  Since separating the high-quality paper from this plastic lining in the recycling process has been challenging for Denver Recycles in the past, these cups have been on Denver’s non-recyclable list – that is, until now! Thanks to a new partnership with the Foodservice Packaging Institute and Alpine Waste & Recycling, Denver is now one of the few cities in the country to add paper cups to its recycling program.

When separated from their plastic liners, paper coffee cups and cold beverage cups are a source of high-quality paper and can be turned into new cups and other products. Denver households are now encouraged to place all paper coffee cups and paper soda cups in their purple recycle carts!

Paper cup recycling comes with just a few simple rules:

  • Paper cups must be clean and empty.
  • Paper cups must be bare -- all sleeves, lids, straws and stirring sticks must be removed before the paper cup is placed in a purple Denver Recycles cart.  

Keep in Mind:

  • Even though paper cups can now be recycled, reusable cups are still the best environmental choice.  When possible, always bring your own cup rather than using a single-use cup.
  • Paper coffee cup sleeves are recyclable too, but these must be separated from the cup before placing both items in the purple cart, separately.

Denver Recycles has a fun and easy way to practice proper waste sorting. Play the Denver Recycles’ Waste Sorting Game today to practice placing paper cups and other items in the correct collection cart!

Last year, Denver collected more than 39,000 tons of recyclables that were sent to Denver-based Alpine Waste & Recycling for processing. After sorting the material, Alpine sells the sorted materials to manufacturers who make new products from the recycled items.

Adding paper cups to the recycling program will help Denver achieve its goal of increasing its recycling rate to 34 percent, the national average, as outlined in the 2020 Sustainability Goals.

For additional information about the Denver Recycles program and Denver’s recycling program guidelines, visit, or call 311 (720-913-1311)