Types of Disposable Cups

23 Nov.,2022


paper cup with handles

From practical to purposeful, disposable cups come in a myriad of materials, styles, sizes, and colors. However, with all the options out there, how do you know what type of cup is right for you? Let's start by covering some basic terminology.


These important terms are used to classify and describe different types of plastic cups or other disposable cups. Learn the difference between products that are compostable vs. biodegradable, and find out what PET stands for, before you shop for disposable cups.

Eco-Friendly Terms

Biodegradable - A product that is biodegradable can be naturally broken down by microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi, and absorbed back into the ecosystem. These products are composed primarily of naturally-occurring constituent parts, and are often considered "green" or "eco-friendly" products.

Compostable - Items are considered compostable when they can be placed into a composition of decaying biodegradable materials, and eventually turn into a nutrient-rich material. Compostable products decompose and decay at the same rate as paper without releasing harmful toxins, making them a "green" option for your commercial business.

Degradable- Degradable products are oil-based and cannot break down naturally like biodegradable items can. Rather, degradable products are broken down through chemical reactions in anaerobic environments. Their decomposition results in water, carbon dioxide, biomass, or trace elements.

Post-Consumer Recycled Content - Post-consumer recycled content is material that has been used and discarded by the consumer, and then saved and turned into a completely new product. Once the initial product completes its life cycle as a consumer item, it is recycled and then made into another product, such as a paper or plastic cup.

Recyclable - Recyclable simply means that a product can be reused and made into something else, something new. To identify recyclable products, the universal recycling logo/symbol should be featured on the packaging. There are seven resin identification codes that can also be found on recyclable plastic packaging. These are codes that each refer to what type of plastic the packaging uses. The codes can then be referenced against the codes available for recycling by your local authority/council.

Disposable Cup Materials

PET- PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate. Part of the polyester family, it is used to make synthetic fibers as well as food and beverage containers. Products made with PET are lightweight and are proficient at blocking gases, solvents, and moisture. They are also strong and impact-resistant. Products made from PET can also be recycled.

Poly-Coated- The term poly-coated is often used when referring to a material that has been coated in polyethylene. Poly-coated materials are more stable, smooth, and moisture resistant than non-coated materials, and typically feature a single or double layer of polyethylene, depending on the quality and durability desired.

Wax-Coated - Featuring a leak-resistant wax coating, wax-coated products offer added strength and sturdiness, similar to those that are poly-coated. These products are often sprayed on all sides with wax and work especially well in cold applications.

Paper, Plastic, or Foam?

Now that you know your terminology, it's time to start figuring out which type of cup is right for your establishment. Will it be paper, plastic, or foam? Traditional or eco-friendly? Everyday or innovative? Pretty or practical? There are many paper cup sizes or other disposable cup sizes available so you can choose the ones that best match up with your drink menu. The options out there are as endless as the drinks you put in them.

Types of Paper Cups

Air Pocket Insulated

Eliminating the need to "double cup" or keep coffee sleeves on hand, paper hot cups like ripple cups and double wall cups are designed with air pocket insulation to keep hot beverages warm without burning patrons' hands. These cups feature an inner sheet and an outer sheet, separated by a layer of air for added insulating properties.

Poly-Coated Paper

Featuring a polymer coating for added insulation, poly-coated cups are great for serving hot or cold beverages alike! These cups may have a single or double poly-coating, with each additional layer offering additional rigidity. This lining also keeps liquids inside the cup and protects the outside of the cup from weakening due to condensation or "sweating." Unlike wax-coated cups, poly-coated cups pose no risk of wax-buildup in your cup dispensers.

These cups come in a wide range of colors and sizes, and many feature tightly rolled rims for worry-free, leak-proof drinking.


Made using post-consumer fibers, recycled paper cups feature FDA Approved constructions that let you show your green side to your customers. These cups are just as great for serving hot or cold liquids as traditional paper cups, but use less virgin paper in their makeup.


Some paper cups are made using renewable resources. These cups are available in compostable paper styles, double-sided poly paper styles, and paper-lined styles with thick PLA shells. Made with up to 100% renewable resources, sustainable cups give you and your customers added peace of mind when using disposable cups for service. They are available in hot or cold cup designs, so be sure to check if the cup you're interested in is heat-resistant if hot beverages are your specialty.

Wax-Coated Paper

Similar to poly-coated paper, wax-coated paper offers extra rigidity and protection from leaks and absorption, as well as an added layer of insulation. These cups are available in a variety of patterns and sizes, and like poly-coated cups, many feature tightly rolled rims for worry-free, leak-proof drinking. Wax-coated paper cups are primarily designed for use with cold beverages, making them ideal when serving sodas, iced tea, lemonade, milkshakes, and more.

Types of Plastic Cups


Like paper, plastic cups also come in a variety of green, eco-friendly options. Our 100% compostable cold cups, for example, are made of PLA corn plastic and offer complete product visibility for enhanced marketability. These cups feature rolled rims, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and each cup is temperature tolerant from 40 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heavy Duty, Hard Wall

For a high class option with the convenience of disposability, turn to hard wall plastic cups. These cups have rigid walls that make them break- and shatter-resistant, giving them a heavy-duty feel. From festive colorful tumblers to crystal clear plain cups, hard plastic cups are ideal for upscale occasions where traditional glassware simply isn't feasible. Available in a variety of colors, sizes, styles, and shapes, hard plastic cups are sure to meet virtually any need and match virtually every décor. These cups give the look of china or fine cut crystal, yet cost a fraction of the price and none of the clean-up.

Heavy Duty, Flexible

Heavy duty, flexible cups have a medium wall construction that flexes but still remains crack-resistant. Featuring crystal clarity for an upscale look, PET plastic cups are clear, crack-resistant premium plastic cups. PET plastic cups are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles; however, they are to be used only with cold beverages, thus limiting your service options. Polystyrene cups come in a wide variety of colors, making them a perfect choice for parties and catered events.

Thin Wall

An economical option for everyday beverage service, thin wall cups are made of durable polypropylene material for a lower cost alternative to PET clear plastic cups. These cups are crack-resistant, and feature a translucent appearance, great for serving cold drinks at your high-volume fast food venue.

Kids Cups and Concession Cups

Featuring tight-sealing lids and hard plastic styles, kids cups and concession cups alike are designed to last while preventing drips and spills. These cups come in a variety of bold patterns, and range in size from a standard 12 oz. to a large 64 oz. Often referred to as "souvenir cups", kids cups and concession cups can be reused, though they are designed for one-time-use by restaurant and concession stand operators.


Available in solid color and clear options, polystyrene cups are made from a high impact material that is sturdy, shatterproof, and flexible. These cups feature smooth rolled rims and come in a variety of styles, sizes, and shapes to meet your unique needs. They're built to withstand your most popular party games, and are the standard when it comes to plastic cups in party settings. Polystyrene plastic cups, like most plastic cups, are only designed for use with cold beverages though, so keep that in mind when deciding on the perfect cup.


Many eco-friendly plastic cups are made from post-consumer recycled content, much like many green paper cups. These cups are available in several styles and sizes so you can serve your guests with eco-conscious confidence. Keep in mind, though, that these cups are only ideal for cold beverage applications.

Types of Foam Cups


A great insulator, foam cups make an ideal option for hot or cold beverages. These cups hold their shape better than paper cups, yet still offer your establishment a low-cost, lightweight vessel. Foam cups are available in traditional white or printed patterns, and some even come in designer styles. Many are customizable, too! Featuring a one-piece molded construction with a distinctive pedestal, traditional foam cups feature the durability you need with all the insulation you want.

Dart Fusion

Innovative Dart Fusion cups take convenience one step further by adding in superior insulating properties with ThermoThin cores. ThermoThin cores keep the cup's sidewalls cool to the touch, eliminating the need for "double cupping" or cup sleeves, yet they provide the best in insulation for your hot or cold beverages. Fusion cups are available in several sleek and stylish designs, all with the look and feel of paper cups and the insulation of foam.


Not seeing a design or color that seems to fit your establishment's style? Some types of disposable cups offer the option of customization. This allows you to add a personal touch to your disposable products, permitting you to display your establishment's name and logo for increased, efficient advertising. Customizable options are available with select foam drinking cups. Proudly promote your business with these available customization features!


So you've decided on a style and design for your establishment's cold cups and hot cups. Now what? To give your customer every convenience possible, you'll want to have a few items on hand to complement your disposable cups.

plastic cold cup lids,

Lids are absolutely essential to help ensure that your customers' beverages don't spill. There are paper cold cup lids foam cup lids , and paper hot cup lids available in various styles and styles to meet your service needs. Flat lids are perfect for beverages such as water, soda, and juices. Dome lids are perfect for smoothies, milkshakes, and iced lattes since they allow plenty of room for whipped cream!

If you serve hot beverages at your establishment, then you may also want to consider ordering coffee cup sleeves. These sleeves will help to protect your customers' hands from the heat emanating from their cups. Not only will these coffee jackets help to protect their hands from getting burned, but they will also help to make carrying the cups easier!

Don't forget the coffee stirrers to go with your hot cups! Keep your self-serve beverage station stocked so that your customers can grab a stirrer to mix cream and sugar into their hot beverage. You'll also want to make sure you never run out of drinking straws. From sipping straws for cocktails, to super jumbo straws for smoothies, we have a selection to meet every need.