Sunday, March 11, 2012

Are Communion Cups Recyclable?

Since we're still in the "getting to know me" stage of this blog, I should let you know that I'm a Lutheran.  That's a branch of protestant Christianity founded by this guy:

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
What does this have to do with being green? I'm getting there. 

Each Sunday, our church offers the option of "common cup" or individual cups of wine during communion.  This decision always makes me feel uneasy.

Common Cup
Individual Communion Cups
I know that the greenest option for me would be to opt for the common cup since everyone drinks from the same metal chalice.  BUT, I just can't hang with the thought of communal backwash.  Sorry.

So instead, I (and most of our congregation) drink from the little individual plastic cups each Sunday.  This morning as I saw the tray of empty plastic cups go by at the end of communion, I got to thinking: yikes, that's a lot of plastic to pitch in the landfill each week.

As I suspected, I learned that our church does not currently recycle the cups, but we do have a recycling bin available to use.  So the only question left for me to answer is: Are the cups actually recyclable?

Answer: From what I can see online, YES.  Although, each manufacturer is different so a little research is needed to confirm particular brands. I'm happy to report that the brand our church uses IS recyclable!  So I'm going to ask our Altar Guild to start dropping the used cups into the recycling bin from now on.  Now I won't feel so guilty for taking one sip from a plastic cup.

You know what that makes me? A happy Lutheran.  Just like this guy:


  1. Replies
    1. Here is the brand we use:

  2. Thanks for this write up! I have the same concern about piling a bunch of plastic cups in a landfill, and found this post through a Google search.

    Yes, the box says the cups are recyclable. But whether they are actually recycled depends on where you live, because each city / municipality handles recycling differently. For example, some cities only recycle certain types of plastic (if you look at the number inside the triangle logo), like #1 PET and #2 HDPE. I'll have to double check, but I think the cups we use are #7 OTHER.

    Also, some say you have to wash out plastic containers first. That is something I would be willing to do if needed, but it is a lot more work than what we are currently doing (which is just throwing in the garbage), and I'm not sure everyone would be up for that.

    I don't have a solution yet, but I'm still looking. I'm hoping to find something eco-friendly and easy to clean up. I was wondering if anyone makes corn based resin cups that are safe to use and biodegradable so they can just be tossed. Also wondering, is the corn stuff really better than plastic?

    - Bob.

    1. Hm... I just did a search online and rumor has it on a few church blogs that International Paper makes a compostable communion cup. HOWEVER, when I go to the International Paper, I see the smallest size cup they offer is 1oz, twice the size of a standard communion cup, so I'm wondering if the churches are either using huge cups or if they worked out a private deal with International Paper for bulk orders. I can't find any other PLA communion cups out there, which is very disappointing. I did see that some other options to avoid the plastic cups would be to use stainless steel or glass cups that can be run through a dishwasher in a special tray to make cleaning pretty simple. That option is an upfront investment, but because they (especially the stainless steel) are so durable, they wouldn't have to be replaced very often so could be a cost-savings in the long run. I'm going to keep my ear to the ground on the PLA cups, though, because that's a great concept - compostable communion cups!


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