Paper Cups or Plastic Cups: It’s a No Brainer – Or Is It?

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Daniel Hamby wonders if the dash to paper vending cups is  justified.

Ten or so years back, paper vending cups were barely on the agenda, in fact to find them, a buyer would need to be pretty determined in his search.

DANIEL phone

This is how Daniel Hamby looks when he’s not driving


Today’s vending landscape could hardly be more different. All the major manufacturers supply paper cups and recently, we’ve seen the launch of the first double-walled vending cup. Meanwhile, sales of traditional plastic vending cups are in decline.

On the face of it, if you’re a consumer, choosing paper over plastic is a no-brainer. After all, paper cups are capable of carrying colourful graphic designs, branding and promotional messages; the feel of the paper cup in the hand beats that of it plastic alternative hands down – coffee even tastes better out of paper than it does out of plastic.

If you’re an operator, though, the choice is not quite so clear-cut. Paper cups cost more, and that’s before you elect to specify a bespoke design.

Environmentally, does paper beat plastic? ‘Plastic’ is almost a dirty word these days in packaging terms – witness the relentless drive amongst supermarkets to decrease the use of ‘throw away’ plastic bags with ‘bag for life’ promotions, for example. Many manufacturers of paper cups, such as International Paper and Benders, source the raw materials for their products from PEFC or FSC Certified forests; but then, there’s the thorny question of recycling. Just as Save a Cup seemed to be offering a viable alternative to landfill for plastic cups, along came the paper alternative, complete with their PE coating, which rules out the re-cycling route. Finally, there’s the most basis question: ‘can my machine park handle paper cups, will they drop every time or will they jam. Am I making a rod for my own back by using paper cups?

In the past few years, there’s been a surge in the use of paper vending cups. The benefits of paper cups are clear, in that they help to recreate the retail experience (you don’t get coffee-to-go in a plastic cup from Costa, of Café Nero, or Starbucks or, in fact, from any High Street retailer). This allows operators to command a higher price for a vended beverage.

On the other hand, does using paper cups guarantee more sales and more profit for operators than using plastic ones, and if so, does the increased machine downtime and more engineers visits wipe out the extra income?

If you use Vendman, the answer to this and many other vending questions is at your fingertips…

If you don’t, maybe you should contact us? We’ll show you how to ‘keep in touch with performance’, with the UKs number-one vending system software – Vendman.