We use cookies on our website. You are free to manage this via your browser setting at any time. To learn more about how we use cookies, see our privacy policy.

Disposable Cups Buying Guide


Disposable Cups

Practical and durable, disposable cups come in many different sizes, materials and styles.  Biodegradable cups are made up of green materials so are eco-friendly but there are also compostable disposable cups which mean they can be placed with other biodegradable materials and turn into a nutrient rich bi-product and while they decompose.  Additionally, they don’t release harmful toxins while decomposing.  If you are running a green business or you want an eco-friendly product compostable or biodegradable disposable cups will be the right choice for you.  Degradable products are made out of oil based ingredients but don’t break down naturally like biodegradable cups.  They can be broken down but this is through using a chemical reaction and when decomposed they turn into carbon dioxide or water for example. 

PET cups are made out of polyethylene terephthalate and are lightweight often clear looking cups which are generally quite strong and resistant to impact.  Additionally, they are recyclable.  Poly-coated products are similar to PET in that they have been coated in polyethylene and are smooth and resistant to moisture.  They also come in single or double layer depending on the strength of product you are looking for.  Recyclable simply means a disposable cup can be transformed into something else and cups that are recyclable feature the logo somewhere on the body.  There are also cups known as post-consumer recycled content which means the material has been used by a consumer and then saved and transformed into something brand new.  Wax-coated cups have a leak-resistant coating made out of wax which gives it extra strength.  They are especially good for very cold drinks or iced drinks.

For cups there are different types you can choose for your business, here are the main types:

Paper Cups

  • Air Pocket insulated eliminates the need to use two cups at once or use a special sleeve to protect hands. They are designed to keep drinks nice and hot but won’t burn the customer’s hands because they are built with an inner and outer sheet which is separated by air therefore giving this style of cup great insulation.
  • Wax-coated paper cups offer extra strength and leak protection. They also give extra insulation and many have tight, rolled rims which prevents leaking during drinking.  These are excellent for cold drinks rather than hot beverages.
  • Poly-coated paper has a polymer coating which aids good insulation and these style of cups are excellent for both cold or hot drinks. Some have a single layer coating and others have a double layer, the latter giving extra strength.  The cups don’t fold or bend when hot liquid is poured in and they also have a rolled rim which prevents spillage and leaking.
  • Post-consumer cups are recycled cups which are good for the environment. They are ideal for hot or cold drinks and use recycled materials so are very eco-friendly.
  • Sustainable cups are created using renewable resources and come in various papers including paper-lined with thick shells, compostable and double-sided poly-paper. They are only made using renewable materials so you will be especially environmentally friendly if you choose this style.  However, choose carefully because some are not heat-resistant.

Plastic Cups

  • Compostable plastic is completely biodegradable and able to tolerate very high temperatures.
  • Hard plastic cups are excellent for very hot beverages and for cold drinks. They also come in a variety of designs so you can also get wine glasses, champagne glasses, flutes etc. and are an excellent choice for smart dining. 
  • PET gives excellent clarity and they are crack-resistant premium quality plastic cups but they are best used for cold drinks only.
  • Polystyrene cups are strong and crack proof as well as being durable. They are very popular disposable cups and used at parties but are only suitable for cold drinks.

Foam Cups

  • Foam is excellent for both hot and cold drinks and they are known to hold their shape better than paper cups. They are also relatively inexpensive, giving good insulation and durability.
  • Thin wall polystyrene cups are excellent for insulation and are less bulky than foam cups.

Cup Lids

Lids are also important to help your customers drink their drinks without spillage and leaking.  They come in a number of different styles for all the different materials available and there are lids suitable for hot and cold drinks.  Flat lids are best advised for cold drinks such as fizzy, water or juice whereas domed lids are the right choice for milkshakes, iced drinks and smoothies – the dome shape allowing plenty of room for froth or whipped cream.  Finally hot drinks need lids which are designed to be drunk from, without scalding lips.  Additionally you might want to offer coffee cup sleeves which help prevent your customers’ hands from getting burnt and make it much easier for them to carry their drinks in comfort.

Carry Trays

Another useful essential for your coffee shop, fast food restaurant or other food business is the carry tray which is designed to transport cups of coffee safely to your customers’ destinations.  Choose from 2 cup carriers to 4 cup carriers. These leave a hand free to carry bags and other paraphernalia!  Made out of recyclable cardboard they are environmentally friendly as they are recyclable, compostable and biodegradable.

Vending Cups

These come in a variety of materials which are all recyclable from polystyrene to paper and are designed for use on the go so they can be disposed of quickly and easily.  Check with your vending machine to see what size and material is recommended before purchasing.  Double walled is recommended for hot drinks so the cup is strong enough to withstand the heat and durable without being too flimsy.  Additionally, some vending machines have an area devoted to vending cups, whether kept on the side or dispensed with the drink so stock up on sip lids for speciality vending cups too.

For further information on Disposable Cups visit the Disposables pages or contact the Alliance customer care team

Back to the Disposables buying guides