Can You Recycle McDonald’s Fast-Food Soda Cups?

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

We have all been there, sitting at home, in the car, or in the fast-food restaurant, sipping away, enjoying what is a delicious sugar hit.

If it has crossed your mind whether or not fast food soda cups are recyclable and what the companies are doing to make a positive environmental impact, you are in the right place! Here is what my research found!

Can You Recycle McDonald’s Fast-Food Soda Cups?

Unfortunately, the majority of fast-food restaurants use those wax-coated cups that cannot be recycled as of [currentyear]. However, McDonald’s has begun using reusable plastic cups at restaurants in the UK and Germany to cut down on the amount of trash that ends up in landfills. 

Since most of these places offer a better price for getting a meal with a drink, almost everyone gets one which makes up a lot of the trash going into those landfills. However, what can we do about it? Well, continue reading below to find out!

What Fast-Food Items Are Recyclable?

Although there are still many items from fast-food restaurants that can be recycled, soft drink cups are not one of them, as they are coated with plastic. 

However, some of the recyclable items include:

  • Cardboard food containers
  • Drink cup carriers
  • Hard plastic containers
  • Paper bags
  • Paper cups
  • Paper food containers
  • Paper straws
  • Plastic straws
  • Styrofoam cups
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McDonald’s Is Making A Promise, What Is It?

Unfortunately, those empty drink cups will continue to end up in landfills, polluting our planet, however, recently McDonald’s has made a promise to its customers to do better.

According to its website, McDonald’s vows to have all packaging sustainable by 2025

By changing its coffee cups in Germany to reusable cups and giving the McFlurry cups a makeover in Europe, McDonald’s says it will be saving over 3,800 tons of plastic per year! 

Furthermore, in France, the company has changed all of its cup lids to fiber lids that do not use straws. 

Additionally, according to McDonald’s, this will save another 1,200 tons of plastic. 

In fact, over a thousand McDonald’s stores have stopped using plastic straws and the new lids are saving about 400 tons of plastic per year. 

Further, McDonald’s is working with TerraCycle’s packaging service to cut down on waste.  

Also, there is a new reusable cup being tried in the UK that is called the Recup

Customers are encouraged to choose to use these new cups and pay a deposit, which they will get back when they bring the cups back, therefore, the cups will be reused.

So, are any other fast food companies doing anything to reduce waste?

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The NexGen Cup Challenge

The NexGen Cup Challenge

NexGen is an association of people who are trying to get rid of single-use food packaging waste. 

Furthermore, NexGen started the challenge in 2018 for companies all over the world to design a new reusable cup system. 

Recently, Starbucks got rid of its plastic straws and is joining McDonald’s and other companies in this challenge.

So far, there are 12 new cup ideas, including the Recup that McDonald’s has been using. 

This is great as just one Recup can save up to 1,000 disposable cups from being added to the landfills and it is 100% recyclable and BPA-free. 

Other ideas include cup liners and new materials made from plants that are compostable. 

However, you might be wondering how you as a customer can take part in this initiative, well keep on reading to find out! 

How Does The Recup Plan Work?

The Recup plan is an initiative that McDonald’s in Germany has begun to pilot for its customers.

Furthermore, customers can ask for a reusable coffee cup and return it to a participating McDonald’s restaurant, where it will be cleaned and reused.

However, to make this plan global, the first step is to get well-known companies to use these recup plans. 

Once a company like McDonald’s or Starbucks agrees to the plan, they have to get the customers involved. 

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Therefore, increasing customer awareness of the waste from the current cups and how the Recup can help is essential to the plan’s success. 

Unfortunately, if customers do not want to pay a deposit and/or bring their cups back to the store, the Recup plan will not work. 

However, in some cities, stores have even begun charging customers a fee for not using reusable cups to encourage them to do so. 

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle peanut butter jars, whether you can recycle dog/cat food cans & bags, and whether you can recycle Pringles cans.


Unfortunately, most fast food items are not recyclable which largely affects the amount of trash going to landfills as fast-food restaurants are so popular.

However, a company called NexGen has come out with a challenge causing many companies such as Mcdonald’s to come up with an alternative cup for its customers that is sustainable and also recyclable. Luckily, they have done this and created the ReCup for its customers!


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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