What is the different between pla and water-based disposable coffee cups?

With so many options on the market right now, we can understand how hard it is to choose the coffee cup that best represents your cafe. Unfortunately current options like PLA are not as eco friendly as they first seem. PLA coffee cups are referred to as plant-based and compostable but what is not common knowledge is that they are only COMMERCIALLY compostable. It is a great idea in theory, but it’s just not actionable, as this means you would need to collect all cups and take them to a commercial composting facility. They will not break down naturally nor can they be recyclable. 

To keep it simple:



  • plant based lining made from renewable raw materials such as corn
  • the only biodegradable and compostable form of plastic
  • Less emissions to produce than PE
  • can not be recycled and will contaminate other items in bin¬†
  • if not disposed of correctly (at a commercial composting faculties) they cause as much damage to our landfill as traditional plastics




  • cheapest option on the market¬†
  • can be turned into new paper products like paper towel etc when recycled properly (always best to tip food/drinks out of items before placing into your recycle bin)


  • has a plastic lining
  • not 100% recyclable (as not all Australian recycling facilities can't seperate the plastic lining from the paper)
  • takes more than a lifetime to breakdown in landfill (it will out live us all)


ALL NEW Water-based/Aqueous


  • water-based¬†coating rather than traditional plastic or bioplastic lining
  • fully home and industrially compostable (AS5810 certified)
  • can be placed in regular recycling to turn into new products¬†
  • UK certified Plastic Free (no certification similar available in Aus, yet)
  • Will break down as fast as regular paper and newspaper in landfill
  • Home compost tested - broke down naturally in approx 3 weeks


  • As mentioned for PE, Australian doesn't have the best recycling systems and therefore nothing is actually 100% guaranteed to be recycled (as each and every facility disposes of items differently)


PLA, PE and PS have only 1 of the below end-of-life options.
Truly Eco cups can be renewed in ALL 3 WAYS, making them the most eco-friendly product on the market.
  1. place in any regular recycle bin to turn them into new paper products (PE/PS)
  2. place in your home compost to biodegrade back to nature 
  3. place in your local councils industrial compost collection bin (PLA)




Our advice

No matter what option you choose to use in your business, the best thing to do is educate your customers on how to best dispose of your cups and packaging. Plus you can also provide recycling or compost bins for them to use. There are some great services out there like Compost Connect or InTheLoop that will provide a compost waste bin and collect it for you for a small monthly fee. 

The more products that are recycled or compostable the less that will end up in landfill. 

Alternatively, you can easily shop our fully range of compostable coffee cups as well as some great eco-friendly lid and accessories on our website. 


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published