Epoxy Resin

To understand plastic you need a lot of time and a good working knowledge of chemistry at the very least. Currently I am trying to find out what epoxy resin actually is. Sigh! Here’s what I got….

It is a thermoset plastic which means it can only be heated and shaped once.

Most epoxy resins are petroleum derived but some plant derived sources are now becoming commercially available such as plant derived glycerol.

Properties Good electrical insulator, hard, brittle unless reinforced, resists chemicals well

Principal uses Casting and encapsulation, adhesives, bonding of other materials. And lining tin cans.

Epoxy resin can be mixed with additives, plasticizers or fillers to create different products with a range of properties Use of blending, additives and fillers is often referred to as formulating.”

Bisphenol A (BPA)

And of course the one everyone is concerned about ….. BPA is an integral part of most epoxy resins.

“The most common and important class of epoxy resins is formed from reacting epichlorhydrin with bisphenol A to form diglycidyl ethers of bisphenol A.”

Many consider BPA to be a health hazard.

Nearly all tin cans are lined with epoxy resin. and have been since the 50s. The liner can be white or yellow or transparent in which case it is undetectable. BPA can leach from the liner into the contents of the can. For more on this read Why Does My Can Have A Liner & Is It Bad For Me.

Other Resins

  • Bisphenol F epoxy resin
  • Novolac epoxy resin
  • Aliphatic epoxy resin
  • Glycidylamine epoxy resin


Polypropylene (PP) plastic code 5

It is the second most important plastic after polyethylene.

It is a thermoplastic polymer that is rugged and unusually resistant to many chemical solvents, bases and acids.

It is used to make soup pots, margarine tubs, most bottle tops, waterproof clothing, carrier bags, ropes, non woven fibre products like the fluffy cottonwool type stuff used in tampons and nappies.

Does not biodegrade.

UK Collection Rates for recycling.Not generally collected for household recycling, although it has good potential.However, mixed plastic recycling is expected to be under way within five years. (please note this information is always changing. Updates will be posted here first so you may wish to double check.)

It is expected to net US$145 billion by 2019 and the sales of this material are forecast to grow at a rate of 5.8% per year until 2021.

In 2013, the global market for polypropylene was about 55 million metric tons. Wikkipedia.

Polypropylene is made from propylene. This in turn is made from propane.

Propane is derived from hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbon chains are refined by cracking and polymerising.

Very basically cracking breaks the existing chains and polymerisation is remixing them into something new.

Using high-temperature furnaces, propane is cracked into propylene,

Using a catalyst, a reactor and some heat propylene joins together to create a polymer called polypropylene.

Propane can be derived from Naptha ( which is distilled from crude oil)

90% of propylene is made from oil though that figure is rapidly changing as more is made from shale gas as a result of fracking.

“North America plans to build 6 new plants to to make “on purpose” propylene from propane “In the past the price of propylene and propane were so close in the U.S. that it wasn’t cost effective to dehydrogenate propane, but now with low cost propane from shale gas, it is. “

Polypropylene was discovered in  1951 by two chemists working for Phillips Petroleum Company.

In 2008, researchers in Canada asserted that quaternary ammonium biocides and oleamide were leaking out of certain polypropylene labware, affecting experimental results.



Whats your food wrapped in…..

Long ago I bought myself some lentils from a major retailer of whole foods. They came in a clear, crinkly, sharp kind of plastic bag with colorful, crisp images.  The bag had no plastic code so I  set about researching the packaging. I phoned and asked the producer/ retailer but they couldn’t help me. So I had the packaging analyzed. I can now tell them that it was in fact a film consisting of a series of bonded layers including a 70 micron thick polypropylene and ethylene layer, laminated and printed. Or to put it more simply several layers of plastic each with different properties stuck together.

This method of making plastic films leads to a very versatile product that looks good and has a wide range of uses.

On the down side these films are difficult to recycle. Because they consist of different plastics bonded together it is difficult to know what they are and how to treat them and separating the films is tricky and so very expensive. Films therefore often don’t get recycled but burnt or landfilled.

Just to remind you

Another barrier to [plastic] recycling is the widespread use of dyesfillers, and other additives in plastics. The polymer is generally too viscous to economically remove fillers, and would be damaged by many of the processes that could cheaply remove the added dyes. Additives are less widely used in beverage containers and plastic bags, allowing them to be recycled more often. . Yet another barrier to removing large quantities of plastic from the waste stream and landfills is the fact that many common but small plastic items lack the universal triangle recycling symbol and accompanying number. From  Wikipedia on plastic recycling

So if you need to buy something in plastic, try avoid the film and go for easily recycled polythene. You can find some suppliers here….

Plastics used to package food include the following. Copied from practical action 


Film Type


Barriers to Moisture




Normal Thickness Micrometers






21 – 40







19 – 42






21 – 42


Nitro- cellulose




21 – 24

Polythene (low density)





25 – 200

Polythene (high density)





350 – 1000






20 – 40







18 – 34






20 – 30






12 -23










20 -30

Table 1: Properties of selected packaging materials
* = low ** = medium *** = high. Thicker films of each type have better barrier properties than thinner films. PVDC = polyvinylidene chloride.

Laminated films

Lamination of two or more films improves the appearance, barrier properties or mechanical strength of a package.

Coextruded films

This is the simultaneous extrusion of two or more layers of different polymers. Coextruded films have three main advantages over other types of film:

  • They have very high barrier properties, similar to laminates but produced at a lower cost.
  • They are thinner than laminates and are therefore easier to use on filling equipment.
  • The layers do not separate.
    Examples of the use of laminated and coextruded films are as follows:

Type of laminate

Typical food application

Polyvinylidene chloride coated polypropylene (2 layers)

Crisps, snackfoods, confectionery, ice cream, biscuits, chocolate

Polyvinylidene chloride coated polypropylene- polyethylene

Bakery products, cheese, confectionery, dried fruit, frozen vegetables


Pies, crusty bread, bacon, coffee, cooked meats, cheese

Cellulose-acetate-paper-foil- polyethylene

Dried soups

Metallised polyester-polyethylene

Coffee, dried milk


Dried soup, dried vegetables, chocolate

Type of coextrusion


High impact polystyrene- polyethylene terephthalate

Margarine, butter tubs

Polystyrene-polystyrene- polyvinylidene chloride-polystyrene

Juices, milk bottles

Polystyrene-polystyrene- polyvinylidene chloride-polyethylene

Butter, cheese, margarine, coffee, mayonnaise, sauce tubs and bottles


Degradable, biodegradable or compostable

So most plastics are made from oil and most plastics do not biodegrade. See how and why here…

And yet you will find plastics described as

  • degradable
  • biodegradable
  • compostable

What do these terms actually mean when applied to plastic?

Remember that

  • Most traditional, oil-based plastics do not biodegrade.
  • Biodegradable products break down as the result of the actions of naturally occurring microorganisms, such as fungi or bacteria, over a time.
  • Plastic breaks, tears and cracks. It weathers and sunlight makes it brittle, It falls apart – it degrades – but only into smaller pieces of plastic.
  • Find out more about the lifecycle of plastic here.

Degradable Plastic

All plastic degrade – i.e. they fall apart into smaller pieces of plastic. BUT when a plastic is described as degradable it could just describe the falling part process  OR it could mean t a degradation initiator has been added to make it fall apart faster.

Degradation Initiators and Bio-Degradable Plastics

But suppose there was a way of making plastic biodegradable? The industry argue that they can do just that by means of chemical additives known as degradation initiators. Very basically, these additives break the long unnatural plastic polymers into shorter recognisable polymers that microbes can attack and digest – or biodegrade (N.B. lots more research need to be done on this. It is by no means proven).

Because the degradation initiators are biologically  based they are sometimes described as biodegradable. So some traditional plastic bags have been labelled biodegradable.

This is  at best confusing if not deliberately misleading. This  is not the same process as natural biodegrading. Unlike truly biodegradable products they don’t always break down into harmless substances and may leave behind a toxic residue.

More so as  there are some compostable plastics which are also described (correctly) as  biodegradable which do actually compost down into biomass.

Read more about degradation initiators here.

Compostable Biodegradable Plastics

Truly biodegradable plastics are compostable.

Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades) For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the European Norm EN13432.

Compostable Plastics  meet all of these criteria. You can find out more here.


Yes they have a vested interest making as they do compostable plastic goods but the info still stands.

Vegware factsheet





Compostable Plastics

Plastic was the name given to early synthetic products such as cellophane,  that were derived from cellulose. These plastics  were biodegradable. Then they learnt how to make similar products from oil. Or rather from the bits of crude left over after they had finished making petrol. The same name was then given the oil derived product. But there were crucial differences. This new product was  made in a very different way and did NOT biodegrade.Since then yet more “plastics” have hit the market. Made from all kinds of things. Some from plant starch and some are certified compostable.

To conclude;
Currently, non- biodegradable, oil derived plastics are the most commonly used and so we tend to ascribe their qualities to all types of plastic.
In fact plastics can be made in a variety of ways from a variety of materials; shale gas, oil, plants even chicken feathers;
And different plastics have very different qualities. Some plastics do biodegrade and are certified compostable
Want to know more about plastic? Read up here

Biodegradable, Compostable Plastics

Just to remind you:
What is biodegradable? Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here
What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive.
For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the European Norm EN13432.
You can find out more here.

Home Or Industrial Compostable?

Home Composting
Composting is usually done on a small scale and most people will be familiar with the concept of a backyard heap or garden compost where household waste is rotted down into garden mulch.
Industrial composting
However large-scale schemes are becoming increasingly popular. In the UK communities band together to compost a whole street is worth of waste. Even city councils are getting in on the act.
These larger projects are sometimes called industrial composting

The difference is is that industrial composting is a lot hotter and can work more quickly.

Home Compostable?
Many products ( especially compostable plastics), have been tested under industrial composting conditions. Therefore, while a product might be classed as both biodegradable and compostable, it might not break down in a backyard compost bin.
That said I have composted many such products in my own bin.

Compostable Plastic Products

These compostable plastics, like oil derived, are extremely versatile.
They can be thin and flimsy which means they can be used to make

PLA Compostable Plastic Bags
And liners to for paper cups to make them waterproof.

They can be harder and more rigid making them ideal for making

Disposable Cutlery 

Deli pots
Rigid packaging for food

And longer lasting products like
Phone cases
Or sponges

See a wide range of compostable products HERE

Compostable Plastics Types
Cellulose derived plastics such as Cellophane.
Starch based PLA plastics. They are certified compostable.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHAs  are linear polyesters produced in nature by bacterial fermentation of ­sugar or lipids.
chicken feathers bioplastic.

Composting Plastic At Home
While most agree that PLA plastic is indeed compostable, many say that it can only composted in large scale municipal schemes.
They are wrong. I have been composting plastics for years.
Read more HERE

To be sure you are using a compostable plastic get one that has been certified compostable. Check out the logo.

Compostable Plastic Products

See a wide range HERE

A Note On Bioplastics
Most compostable plastics are also bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from natural materials such as corn starch.
However not all are compostable. For example ethane based plastics as used Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle which replaces 30 percent of the ethanol in their normal polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottle with 30 percent plant-derived ethanol. This means the bottle is still considered PET and can be recycled but is NOT biodegradable. Find out more here.

Other Plastics
There is research being done into developing a compostable, oil-derived plastic. Watch this space BUT don’t fall for the old *biodegradable plastic bag trick see below.

*Compostable versus biodegradable plastics
You might see some plastics labelled described as biodegradable. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is the same as compostable plastic. It is not. Some “biodegradable plastics” are oil derived plastics with a degrading initiator added to make them fall apart (degrade) more  quickly. Unlike compostable plastics they don’t always break down into harmless substances and may leave behind a toxic residue. Read more here


Check out all our composting posts HERE
Want to know more about plastic? Read up here
See our big list of plastic types here



Polyurethane is made by reacting polyols and diisocyanates,

Polyols and diisocyanates are derived from crude oil and removed during the refining process just like gasoline.

Polyurethane foam can be flexible or rigid. Each form of polyurethane has many uses.

Most polyurethanes do not melt when heated but there are some (thermoplastic polyurethanes) that do.

Polyurethane formulations cover an extremely wide range of stiffness, hardness, and densities. These materials include:

Low-density flexible foam used in upholstery, bedding, and automotive and truck seating
Low-density rigid foam used for thermal insulation and RTM cores
Soft solid elastomers used for gel pads and print rollers
Low density elastomers used in footwear
Hard solid plastics used as electronic instrument bezels and structural parts
Flexible plastics used as straps and bands
lining the cups of brassieres.


Ethane derived plastics

Ethane is a chemical compound in the form of a colorless, odorless gas .

Its chief use is as feedstock for ethylene production.
Ethane is treated (cracked) to make ethylene.

Ethylene is used to make.

Polyethylene (Polythene)

Ethylene is one of the raw materials used to make polyethylene (abbreviated PE) (IUPAC name polyethene or poly(methylene))This is the most common plastic.The annual global production of polythene is approximately 80 million tonnes.

    • High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
    • Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX or XLPE)
    • Medium-density polyethylene (MDPE)
    • Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE)
    • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
    • Very-low-density polyethylene (VLDPE)

PVC polyvinyl chloride

Ethylene and chlorine are raw materials for PVC. Ethylene is chlorinated then cracked to make the  vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). Nearly all VCM is used to make polyvinyl chloride

polystyrene (PS)

Ethylene is  reacted with benzene to make ethylbenzene which is further processed into styrene. The main outlets for styrene are polymers and synthetic rubbers such as polystyrene,acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and styrene butadiene rubber (SBR).

Other Plastics

Ethylene can be oxidised to create ethylene oxide This mostly  used to make ethylene glycol, from which polyester fibres for textile applications, PET resins for bottles and polyester film are made.

Recycling & Biodegradability

These plastics do not biodegrade.

They can be recycled.

Other Uses

ethylene oxide is a poison gas. It is highly flammable and explosive.

It can be used to make weapons

The gas leaves no residue on items it contacts, so can be used  instead of  steam in the sterilization of heat-sensitive tools and equipment, such as disposable plastic syringes.

Other ethylene derivitives are  found in in shampoo, kitchen cleaners, personal care products, etc

A few statistics

Global ethylene production was 107 million tonnes in 2005,[4] 109 million tonnes in 2006.[14] NNFCC Renewable Chemicals Factsheet: Ethanol, 138 million tonnes in 2010 and 141 million tonnes in 2011.[15] By 2010 ethylene was produced by at least 117 companies in 55 countries.[16] To meet the ever increasing demand for ethylene, sharp increases in production facilities are added globally, particularly in the Mideast and in China.[16]

In Abu Dhabi, the Borouge III ethane cracker which will produce 1.5m tonne/year of ethylene is expected to start up 2014.

In Mexico Braskem and Grupo Idesa’s $2.5bn 1m tonne/year ethylene XXI project  is expected to start up in 2015.

Useful Links

Polyethylene (Polythene)

PVC polyvinyl chloride

polystyrene (PS)

PET resins

Wikkipedia  and again market data

Other Plastic Info

Find out about other types of plastic here

Don’t know your crack from you cracking – try this introduction to plastic




Polyethylene / Polythene

  • is the most common plastic.
  • the annual global production of polythene is approximately 80 million tonnes.
  • it is an ethane derived plastic.

Ethane isone of the byproducts of oil refining.
It can be isolated from natural gas,
It can be derived from plants.but most is made from petroleum or natural gas.

Ethene is one of the raw materials used to make polyethylene (abbreviated PE) (IUPAC name polyethene or poly(methylene)

Types of polythene

  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX or XLPE)
  • Medium-density polyethylene (MDPE)
  • Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE)
  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
  • Very-low-density polyethylene (VLDPE)

High-density polyethylene  HDPE Plastic code 2

Used to make supermarket type carrier bags, chemical drums, jerricans, carboys, toys, picnic ware, household and kitchenware, cable insulation, plastic milk cartons, juice bottles, shampoo bottles, and liquid detergent containers.

It is tough and can withstand exposure to sunlight and extremes of temperature.

Products made of HDPE are reusable.


HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic and is a relatively simple and cost-effective process to recycle HDPE plastic for secondary use.

Polythene bags can be recycled through the supermarket carrier bag recycling schemes. Sainsburys even print this fact on their packaging – I saw it on their grapes the other day.

If you don’t live near a supermarket (!) with a recycling scheme, then you can send the bags to this company who run a recycling scheme.

New technology allows HDPE to be recycled into new milk bottles.

LDPE (Low density polyethylene) plastic code 4

used to make soft clear bags for packing of vegetables some bread and frozen food bags, trash cans, and garbage can liners. Also used to make toys and clothes, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, molded laboratory equipment and corrosion-resistant work surfaces.

Parts that need to be weldable and machinable, parts that require flexibility, computer components, such as hard drives, screen cards and disk-drives are all made from LDPE.

It is considered less toxic than other plastics.

It is not commonly recycled yet but recycling possibilities are ever increasing.

Does Not Biodegrade…… or maybe it does

Polyethylene (PE) has been considered nonbiodegradable for decades. Although the biodegradation of PE by bacterial cultures has been occasionally described, valid evidence of PE biodegradation has remained limited in the literature. We found that waxworms, or Indian mealmoths (the larvae of Plodia interpunctella), were capable of chewing and eating PE films.


Cellophane plant derived and biodegradable plastic

Cellophane bags were often used to package candy, vegetables and convenience foods. Potato chips used to be wrapped in cellophane too, providing a nice sparkle to the package while also maintaining a good rigidity when sitting on the shelf. Cellophane is also easy to tear, reseal and print.

The disadvantage of cellophane

And yet, many packaging companies have abandoned cellophane in favor of another highly popular packaging material: polypropylene. Why? Because cellophane performs poor at low temperatures – a must for food packaging. It also has a limited shelf life, not to mention the pricing issues. In recent years, cellophane has become really expensive, more expensive than most other types of plastic.

Which is precisely why cellophane as a food packaging material has become less popular over the years. As mentioned before, polypropylene has replaced cellophane to a large degree. For a while cellophane and polypropylene were used in conjunction, thus a ply of cellophane was laminated to a ply of propylene. Now, however, cellophane is mostly abandoned altogether.

Read more here.

 A guest post from Michael Bloch blogging up on Green Living

Green Living Tips is an online resource powered by renewable energy offering a wide variety of earth friendly tips, green guides, advice and environment related news to help consumers and business reduce costs, consumption and environmental impact .
We see many news stories about developments in the plastics industry to make these items greener. With disposable plastic shopping bags being banned in some places and consumer concern acting as the writing on the wall for the industry, it’s certainly in the sector’s interest to make more environmentally friendly plastic bag and wrap products as soon as possible.

Degradable, compostable and biodegradable plastics may seem like recent inventions, but some have been around for a very long time. One such plastic is cellophane – and it’s now experiencing resurgence in popularity.

Cellophane being plant based didn’t click with me until I was doing some research recently for a restaurant employee who was looking for a biodegradable bag suitable for use with a particular food application – it was only then that it clicked with me the “cello” in cellophane stands for cellulose – the structural component of plants.

Cellophane was invented in 1900, but wasn’t commercially available until 1912. At that point it was mainly used for wrapping candy. When moisture-proof cellophane hit the market in the late 1920′s, it rapidly increased in popularity until the 60′s when alternative petro-chemical based plastics became popular – and we all know how that worked out for the planet.

Quite a few modern bioplastics use plants, but often they use corn as the primary component. Similar to using “food as fuel“; should we be using a grain or a crop grown on land suitable for producing food for non-food uses when arable land (without further deforestation) is becoming a diminishing resource?

Cellophane has an edge here as it can be made from farmed trees or from hemp; which can grow in relatively harsh conditions.

Regarding its composting and biodegradable attributes, I’ve read various reports stating uncoated cellulose film degrades within 10 days to 1 month when buried and nitrocellulose-coated cellulose in 2 months to 3 months. Complete biodegradation of cellulose film is between 1 – 2 months for uncoated products, and from 2.5 to 4 months for coated cellulose products. In a fresh water environment, the rate of biodegradation is only 10 days for uncoated film and a month for coated cellulose film.

As far as I know, corn based bioplastics take far longer to degrade and there’s also some issues with recycling bioplastics made with corn as they are currently classified as a number 7 plastic resin, meaning “other”.

That’s the good news about cellophane; but as with most things, there are some negative aspects too environmentally speaking.

Cellophane is made by dissolving plant fiber in alkali and carbon disulfide to create something called viscose. The viscose is then reconverted to cellulose in cellophane form after a sulfuric acid and sodium sulfate bath. The cellophane is  further treated with glycerol to make the dry cellophane less brittle. The cellophane may then be coated with nitrocellulose or wax to make it impermeable to water vapor. A few nasty chemicals in that process – for example, high levels of carbon disulfide are toxic; affecting the nervous system.

However, given the amount of processing and nasties it takes to turn petro-chemicals; i.e. chemicals derived from crude oil, into plastics and the damage those plastics do long after having been discarded, it would seem to me that cellophane is probably still better environmentally speaking. Stacked up against corn based plastic bags and wraps, the better/worse distinction is a little harder to discern.

Cellophane films and bags are readily available – just run a query on the terms in your favorite search engine to locate a stockist.

Tip: When composting cellophane, scrunch it up instead of laying it flat on your compost pile. This allows for air pockets and some air is necessary when composting any material.

Trivia: another plastic product that’s been around for at least a hundred years also based on plant material is linoleum.

Find out more about compostable and other types of plastic here


Polyethylene terephthalat frequently shortened to PET or PETE and was formerly called PETP or PET-P.

It is an ethane derived plastic.

PET or PETE  (plastic code 1) is most often used for making fibers, things made by injection molding, and containers for food, drinks, pharmaceuticals, make-up etc.

PET fibers are used with other fibers to strengthen them, to make a fiber filling, for fabrics, and carpets,  automobile tire yarns, conveyor belts and seat belts, for non woven fabrics for stabilizing drainage ditches, culverts, and railroad beds, disposable fabrics for use in medical applications, sanitary protection, menstrual products and nappies.

Its other major use is for bottles and  jars for food processed at low temperatures.

It can be used to make a clear containers allowing the contents to be easily seen and identified.

It is intended for single use food packaging applications as repeated use is said to increase the risk of chemicals leaching from the plastic into the contents. There are claims that some of these chemicals may be carcinogenic and or endocrine disruptors.

PET is only 10% of the weight of an identical glass container, it allows for less expensive shipping and handling, saving a significant amount of money for companies around the world.” Copied from Wise Geek

PET starts softening at around 70 °C (160 °F).

It is claimed that bacteria can  colonise the rough surface of a PET.

PET plastic is an easily recyclable plastic  and about 25% of PET bottles in the US today are recycled.

It is made from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, just like paper. It is claimed that, just like paper, it can be safely burnt and will only produce carbon dioxide and water leaving no toxic residue.

However the Material Safety Data Sheet for PET states

Can burn in a fire creating dense toxic smoke. Molten plastic can cause severe thermal burns. Fumes produced during melt processing may cause eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation.

Secondary operations, such as grinding, sanding or sawing, can produce dust which may present a respiratory hazard. Product in pellet form is unlikely to cause irritation.
You can find MSDA sheets here
You can find information on the other types of plastic here.



Cardboard Cups & Pots

So you find what looks like a cardboard container full of yummy ice cream or you see that your favourite coffee shop does paper cups. You remember something about waxed paper. Hooray.
To make paper or cardboard water proof, they are laminated with polyethylene, a plastic resin. These products are in effect very thin plastic containers reinforced.

Other Issues
cardboard containers are made from virgin wood because there are major problems using recycled paper. Regulations are strict about what materials you can use to package food and drink and recycled paper isn’t strong enough.

Because these cups are made from paper and plastic they are difficult to recycle. The parts have to separated. Though this can be done it is a complex procedure which adds to the cost of the recycled product.
many recyclers say that they don’t recycle paper cups. Though some claim to. It’s a murkey scenario at best.

Compostable Alternatives
There are compostable cardboard products for food on the market. They are lined with a clear, certified-compostable, cornstarch plastic (PLA).
Vegware for example do a full range.
But  there would need to be far more, large scale municipal composting schemes for this to be a properly effective answer but can check out this rather sweet cup to compost scheme here.

Biodegradable, Compostable Plastics

What is biodegradable? Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here

What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive.

Composting Plastic At Home
FYI While most agree that some  plastics are indeed compostable, many say that they can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. I have used and composted a number of compostable plastic products 


Fooled again? Check out the lesser known sneaky plastics here


3D Plastic

There is a new machine on the market that can create 3d components out of plastic without the need for moulds. Using plastic thread and computer design drawings (or even a photo) it builds the product up by layer. It is the same principal as the coil pots you made at school.

“On top of a heated plate, a “pen” squeezes out lines of plastic thinner than a human hair as a fan cools it instantly – turning 3D objects on a PC screen into real, solid plastic models.

Instead of simply putting ink to paper, 3D printers allow anyone to create an object they’ve designed, using plastics or metal. The machine then takes the design and builds up the item one microscopic layer at a time, with it slowly appearing before your eyes.” Yahoo.

This means that anyone with access to one of these machines, a computer aided design program and some base plastic, can make whatever they want. And the machines cost less than £700.00 and can be bought at Maplins, a high street electronics store.

The thought is quite horrific. We are already drowning in a mass of plastic crap we don’t need and can’t dispose of properly but at least amounts were limited, and I say that with a hollow laugh, by manufacturing constraints. Now anyone can build anything.

I was worried about the implications for a massive increase in plastic rubbish, concerned that the long-term implications of plastic detritus were being ignored and remain unacknowledged. I should have thought harder.

In May 2013, the US Government demanded that non-profit  Defence Distributed  (DD) took their design for a plastic pistol off line. Yes the designs for the fully-functional 3D-printed handgun, the Liberator, were available on line. By the time the organisation complied, “the files had “already been downloaded more than 100,000 time and, according to the founder Cody Wilson, are now safe in the hands of Internet communities.”

Frickin A! An unlicensed gun that cannot be detected by airport scanners. For sure it might self destruct after a few rounds – into hundreds of pieces of non biodegradable, polluting plastic.