Colorful paper coffee cups on a gray background.

The change will be accompanied by a consumer education campaign. | Natalya Bond/Shutterstock

Over 1 million Chicago-area residents are now able to put paper cups in their curbside recycling bins. 

This option is now available to Chicagoans after LRS, which provides most of the city’s curbside recycling service, expanded its list of accepted materials to include paper cups.

Mark Molitor, director of MRF operations at LRS, said in a press release, “The ability to add paper cups to our list of acceptable materials is in line with our goals of diverting and repurposing discarded materials.” 

“As an early pioneer of the circular or closed-loop operating model, we are thrilled to be a part of this initiative to expand curbside recycling in the Midwest,” Molitor added. 

Consumer education around the initiative in Chicago includes social media posts, an updated recycling flier, an educational recycling video and transit advertisements. That outreach is supported by a communications grant from the Foodservice Packaging Institute. 

The paper cups will be baled with other paper products and sent to mills in the Great Lakes region for use in new paper products, according to the press release from project partners. 

Though ubiquitous in communities across the U.S., paper cups have often been kept out of curbside recycling programs. The products are made with high-quality virgin fiber, but not all paper mills can efficiently recycle them because they are made with a plastic lining to keep the cups from breaking down when they’re filled with liquid.

Earlier this year, communities in the Carolinas also began adding paper cups to their recycling programs, working alongside the Foodservice Packaging Institute in a manner similar to the Chicago project.

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Ousei Kankyoshoji