Recyclable, reusable or biodegradable – why OneCup is using disposable lids (for now)

April 3, 2019

  • Written by OneCup

It may seem strange that OneCup doesn’t currently have an environmentally-friendly option for lids. After all – isn’t OneCup aiming to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfill?     

We certainly hear that. But there’s a reason for it. Well, a few actually.

Aren’t there plenty of recycling-friendly options?

It’s actually extremely difficult to recycle certain materials in New Zealand.

You may be as shocked as we were to find that out. So while many single-use lids have the words ‘recyclable’ on them – and it’s true, they can be – it just simply can’t be done here. Why? New Zealand doesn’t have the right facilities to process them, and even if you pop them in your recycle bin, the sad story is that they will just end up in landfill.

One of the main issues is that because they have been used for ‘food’, they need to be cleaned before they can begin the recycling process – otherwise they could contaminate any future products. And we don’t have recycling plants that can provide this service (in fact there aren’t many at all around the world).

Previously they had been getting sent to various countries in Asia (who also weren’t completely sure how to dispose of them). However this is no longer happening as they decided not to be the world’s dumping ground anymore – a completely reasonable request! Which means that every day, tonnes of ‘recyclable’ lids are going into landfill.

So why not biodegradable?

Biodegradable lids are a tricky one because the problem is, they only biodegrade in the right environment. It is definitely not a case of just throwing it out of the window to let nature run its course, as most of the time they need to be contained in a compost plant specific for that material. And just like recyclable lids, there just aren’t enough commercial composting sites in New Zealand to accommodate for the whole country.

And even if you wanted to send your compostable lid to a composting facility, there aren’t enough bio waste bins in our towns and cities to collect biodegradable products. Meaning it is very likely to just end up in landfill.

What about reusable lids then?

Right now our programme is in its pilot phase, which is also why we only have one cup size. It’s a gradual process to get where we want to be, but there’s no doubt that using OneCup still saves more than 1,000 disposable cups going to landfill. That’s 11kg of waste during the lifetime of one single cup! Put 1,000 OneCups out there, and it will save 11 tonnes.

But we do suggest not using a lid if you don’t need to transport your hot drink too far. Just like saying no to plastic straws, every bit counts when it comes to reducing waste.


So the answer is yes! Reusable lids are definitely something we are looking into for OneCup, but at the moment it is just about tackling the problem step-by-step. And you’re very much a part of achieving that – so thank you for your support.

Have any other questions, comments or suggestions about OneCup? We’d love to hear from you!