8 Ways to Reuse Paper Cups

Single use paper cups are everywhere. In your local coffee shops, schools, and local events. While the use of them is completely avoidable by purchasing a reusable cup, life can get in the way. At times, I can forget to bring my reusable cups along with me. It happens! Especially if you’re on an unexpected trip.

You might remember my previous post; 8 Ways to Reuse Plastic Bags. This proved to be a hit, so I thought I’d do another one for paper cups! Despite putting a lot of effort into my sustainability journey, I’d managed to obtain a few single-use paper cups along the way.

But aren’t paper cups recyclable?

This is a common misconception when it comes to paper cups. I wrote an entire post about why recycling isn’t the perfect option.

In actual fact, only 1 in 400 paper cups end up getting recycled. As for the UK, we use approximately 2.5 billion of them per year! That’s a lot of landfill.

Paper Cup Waste

1 // Wash & Drink

Not exactly kicking this off with a bang, but I promise the other 7 options are more exciting! But what better way to reuse your paper cups than to wash them out and drink out of them? You can even keep it in your bag throughout the day and use it at your local coffee shops.

I’ve done this a few times at university before I purchased my Chilly’s reusable mug. As you’re technically bringing your own cup you get the 25p discount at Starbucks too.

2 // Get Planting

Recently, I decided I wanted to try and grow my own herbs. Instead of buying plastic plant pots, why not give something a new lease of life? For example, you could turn them into mini planters for a herb garden. Then as they grow, transfer them to a larger pot.

This is a great step forward in becoming more sustainable as it cuts out the need to purchase various herbs from your local supermarket. So this way you’re learning a new skill and cutting out waste from glass herb jars!


3 // Storage

We’ve all heard the joke about everyone storing their family sewing kits in old biscuit tins. So why not use cups for lose bits like buttons or cabochons? I always find the odd button lying around my flat that’s falling off something or other. If buttons aren’t your thing, it can also double up as a handy pen pot.

4 // Measuring Scoop

While not completely perfect for measuring quantities in baking, a paper cup can serve as a handy scoop for pet food. I find it helps to portion just the right amount of food for your four-legged fur babies rather than pouring it straight from the packet.

Cup Craft Confetti

5 // Arts & Crafts

Paper ups can be used in a wide variety of fun arts & crafts projects. If you have kids this is a great opportunity to upcycle your old takeaway coffee cups into some fun cartoon characters! Why not go even further and use other upcycled materials to decorate them too? Newspapers and old plastic bags could make great vibrant decorations. Not to mention, you’d also avoid creating further waste from buying brand new craft materials.

Other great cup crafts include an upcycled lampshade and fairy light decorations.

6 // Recycling

While recycling isn’t the best or most sustainable option, it’s still an option. My advice would be to check the materials of your particular paper cup and see if it could be recycled at your local centre. According to the National Geographic, only 9% of recycling actually gets recycled – so be mindful!

Read Recycling; The Reality of Our Waste for more info

Waste Bin

7 // Compost

Yes, some paper cups can even be composted! Once again, I’d advise looking into the materials of your cup just to make sure. If you need tips on how to compost efficiently, I have a whole section dedicated to composting on my Eco Home Pinterest board! Just remember to shred the cup up before adding it to your compost.

8 // Gift Wrap

This can be a really fun idea for Christmas or birthday gifts. Especially for schoolfriends! I always used to do little jars full of ‘goody bag’ style gifts for my friends during my schooldays. It never occurred to me to upcycle some old paper cups to use as gift wrap until now. To brighten things up a bit, add a lick of paint or glue down some patterned paper.

While it’s not ideal to purchase single-use items, it’s incredibly beneficial to get into the habit of reusing old items for a new purpose. It’s really difficult to try and avoid single-use items altogether – especially when they’re such a convenient option!

I’m hoping to get better at refusing before reusing and recycling. Or at the very least less forgetful when it comes to my reusable utensils!

Have you ever reused your paper cups in any of the ways above? Or have you tried something different?

2 comments so far.

2 responses to “8 Ways to Reuse Paper Cups”

  1. What a great post! Next time I find myself using a paper cup I’ll definitely think twice before throwing it in the bin!

    – Beth x

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I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.

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