Gift-Wrapped Starbucks Cups: What Cannot Be Recycled

Every city has its own rules about what can and cannot be recycled. While most things hold true across the nation, like the recycling of plastic water bottles and paper, it’s important to be aware of your city’s specific needs.

We’re fortunate to live in a city that is super conscientious about being green. There are numerous recycling, composting, and other sustainability initiatives that the city practices. Whether it’s recycling at Austin City Limits music festival or controlling litter on the highways or gardening with Dillo Dirt, there’s always a way to be more green in Austin.

We can do our part by learning how to properly recycle. Here is a list of some common items that people sometimes think can be recycled but actually CANNOT BE RECYCLED:

  1. Starbucks cups: No disposable coffee cups can be recycled. Those infamous red cups come with a liner inside that keeps the hot liquid from burning the paper cup, and that liner isn’t made of recyclable material.
  2. Wrapping paper: Gift wrap often contains foil elements. The paper parts of gift wrap would have to be separated from the shiny foil to be properly recycled, so that the foil could be recycled with other aluminum products. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible. Similarly, gift bags, ribbons and bows cannot be recycled. This is why it’s good to re-use gift bags and gift wrap when possible; just don’t re-gift anything. 🙂
  3. Plastic bags (i.e., for groceries): Instead of putting these in your recycling bin, take them to the proper receptacles in front of stores like H-E-B, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart.
  4. Plastic foam: Repeat after me – NO STYROFOAM. Don’t recycle those little packing peanuts, Styrofoam cups, egg-cartons, or Styrofoam containers for leftover food.
  5. Pizza boxes: While it will feel wrong to not recycle such a big paper item like a cardboard pizza box, soiled paper items cannot be recycled in Austin. Because the material was wet/stained by food, it can’t be reused.
  6. CD or DVD cases: These are the only normal-sized hard plastics that cannot be recycled.
  7. Shredded paper: You probably shredded that document for a reason, so don’t put it in your recycling bin.

Certain items and materials that cannot be reused or cannot be classically recycled (such as cell phones, fluorescent lightbulbs, and paint) can be taken to other recycling centers and waste facilities and managed properly.


If you’re thinking of recycling something but are questioning whether or not it can actually be recycled, it’s best to consult your city’s rules and regulations for waste management, most of which can be found online! Or you can ask your fellow green friends. 🙂

Let’s keep Austin beautiful and recycle correctly!

— Olivia Arredondo, Green Greeks


(Photo courtesy of Flickr.)


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