Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Plastic Cups: Recycled and Biodegradable Packaging for Drinks

Transparent plastic cups are commonplace in the food service sector. Juice bars, cafés, street food vendors, and fast food restaurants use them to serve all kinds of cold beverages, from milkshakes, smoothies and bubble tea to fizzy drinks and alcohol.

Plastic cups are lightweight, inexpensive and highly convenient, but this convenience comes with an environmental cost. That’s why it’s our mission to help businesses find sustainable drink packaging that works for them.

Use this guide to help you find the recyclable, compostable and biodegradable drinks packaging you need. Let’s go!

Related: A Guide to Disposable Coffee Cups

An Introduction to Eco-Friendly Plastic Cups

Countless vendors are still using plastic drinks packaging, but single-use plastics are slowly being phased out in the UK. Plastic packaging has a damaging effect on the environment, clogging up landfills and polluting the oceans, but our range of eco-friendly packaging is either 100% recyclable or biodegradable and commercially compostable.

Here’s an overview of the eco-friendly alternatives to plastic cups you can buy today:

Size Best For We Recommend
7oz (200ml) Small Drinks


(e.g. Water, Juice, Fizzy Drinks, Spirits with Mixers, Wine).

7oz Clear Biodegradable Cup (PLA)

9oz (280ml) Small/Medium Drinks


(e.g. Water, Juice, Fizzy Drinks, Spirits with Mixers, Wine).

9oz Clear Biodegradable Cup (PLA)

10oz (300ml) Half-Pint Drinks


(e.g. Beer, Cider, Ale, Soft Drinks).

10oz Clear Biodegradable Cup (PLA)

12oz (360ml) Medium Drinks


(e.g. Drinks from Cans or Bottles, Fizzy Drinks, Craft Beer).

12oz Clear Biodegradable Cup (PLA)

16oz (473ml)  Large Drinks


(e.g. Milkshakes, Smoothies, Iced Coffees, Bubble Tea).

16oz Clear Biodegradable Smoothie Cup (PLA)

20oz Full Pint


(e.g. Beer, Cider, Ale, Non-Alcoholic Drinks on Draught).

20oz Clear Biodegradable Cup (PLA)


We also sell eco-friendly lids to match these cups in various styles to suit different beverages, from smoothies to carbonated drinks.

Check out our online shop and discover a full range of sustainable drinks packaging.

Alternatives to Plastic Cups for Cold Drinks

Several types of clear cups can easily replace regular plastic cups. Each has unique properties and you can dispose of them differently depending on your preferences and the waste management facilities available near you.

Here are some plastic cup alternatives to consider if you’re thinking of going green:

Biodegradable Cups: PLA (Polylactic Acid)


Our clear biodegradable cups are manufactured from Ingeo™ PLA bioplastic, a plant-based alternative to plastic that is 100% biodegradable. It shares all of the same properties of oil-based packaging but with the benefit of being commercially compostable.

Available in five sizes, 7oz, 9oz, 12oz, 16oz and 20oz, to suit all kinds of cold beverages. Clear lids are sold separately and are available in flat and domed styles.

Recyclable Cups: RPET (Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate)

These clear recyclable cups are made from 100% recycled plastic. They carry a much smaller carbon footprint than non-recycled plastic cups and are also recyclable, helping your packaging to go further.


If you don’t have access to commercial composting facilities, these are the best cups for you. Just make sure you have recycling points nearby.

Available in 9oz, 12oz and 16oz sizes, and handy half-pint and full-pint varieties. Lids are sold separately.


Related: 7 Advantages of Bioplastics for Food Packaging

Takeaway Food & Food Delivery 1

The Benefits of Using Alternatives to Plastic Cups

Plastic has many downsides, but it’s arguably one of the most effective materials for cold drinks. That’s why plastic packaging alternatives like our PLA biodegradable cups or RPET recyclable cups are crucial in securing a sustainable future for the food service industry.

There are numerous advantages of using plastic substitutes for disposable cups:

  • Environmental BenefitsRecycled materials require less energy to produce instead of making new products from raw materials. Recycled products have almost identical characteristics to non-recycled products, but they help reduce plastic waste and support sustainable practices.

    Bioplastics degrade naturally over time, compared to plastic products that take centuries to decompose. If you opt for plastic-free packaging, your cups will degrade naturally in three to six months under the right conditions.


  • Environmental Benefits — Plastic packaging is cheap. Previously, you could save money by opting for plastic cups, but the introduction of the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) is set to make non-recycled plastics more expensive.

    The tax aims to discourage the use of non-recycled materials to protect the environment. Adopting recycled plastic or bioplastic packaging now gives your business an early advantage over slower-moving competitors.


  • Marketing Benefits — There are more takeaway establishments on the high street compared to just a few years ago. In such a competitive market, you need to differentiate yourself from the competition, and one way to do this is by using sustainable drinks packaging.

    You’ll give eco-conscious customers more reasons to buy from your brand while doing your bit for the environment.


Want more from your packaging? Get in touch for a free design quote.

Clear Biodegradable PLA Cups 5 copy
Featured: Some examples of branded drinks packaging for our eco-conscious clients.

Eco-Friendly Accessories for Cold Drinks

If you’re looking for plastic packaging alternatives, you aren’t limited to bioplastic cups. That’s why you should address every aspect of your brand’s packaging, including the peripheral items many people forget about.

Paper Straws

Since plastic straws are no longer available, paper straws make a practical, eco-friendly alternative. They’re ideal for soft drinks and are available in various sizes and styles, including red, blue, green and black stripes, and plain white and plain black varieties. 

Individually wrapped straws are ideal for takeaways too, keeping straws safe and sanitary until they’re unpackaged.

Biodegradable Straws (PLA)

These biodegradable straws are an excellent match for our biodegradable cups. Our Ingeo™ bioplastic straws are available in 7mm and 12mm sizes. The smaller straws are great for soft drinks, while the larger 12mm straws are best suited to milkshakes, smoothies and bubble tea. 

They’re also available individually wrapped for your customers’ convenience.

Cup Carriers

For orders of two or more drinks, cup carriers are essential. These compostable carriers are available in two-cup and four-cup varieties to help your customers carry their beverages. Each cup carrier is made from 100% compostable and biodegradable moulded pulp fibre.

Recycled Paper Napkins

Our cups are designed to prevent leaks and spills, but it’s a good idea to have paper napkins to hand, just in case. They’re made from 100% recycled paper and can be customised with your artwork and logo. We can produce napkins in various shapes, sizes and colours to boost your branding. Plus, we print our napkins with vegetable-based inks, making them safe for use with food and drinks.


Discover more eco-friendly takeaway packaging in our online shop.

raw pressed
Featured: Raw Pressed — Custom Printed Packaging from Takeaway Packaging

Case Study: Custom Printed Clear Cups for Raw Pressed

We created custom-printed cups for Raw Pressed, a health and wellbeing-focused brand based in Scotland. They opted for bioplastic clear cups — sticking closely with their plant-based principles — meaning their customers can get healthy takeaway food and drinks on the go without feeling guilty about disposable packaging. 

The simple design incorporated the brand’s logo, but you still see the smoothies and beverages in all their vibrant goodness. Simply adding the logo to the cups has made the packaging a hugely effective marketing tool that doesn’t get in the way of what’s most important — the incredible food and beverages on offer.

Check out the brand’s Instagram profile and see more of our branded packaging in action, including coffee cups, frozen yoghurt pots, bagasse food packaging and more.

Order Custom Printed Cups and Drinks Packaging 

Interested in printed packaging for your brand? Our packaging experts are here to help. We can print pretty much anything on a whole range of food and drinks packaging to give your business a gilded edge in competitive markets.

With low minimum order quantities and small start-up costs, you can get started for less than expected.

Get in touch for a free quote, and let us help you create custom-printed cups with lids, straws and more. 

One Reply to “Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Plastic Cups: Recycled and Biodegradable Packaging for Drinks”

  1. Hi there, i am very interested in biodegradable products for my coffee shop but I am very confused with the information that is available. Could you please advise me; How long does it to for a PLA biodegradable smoothie cup and lid to ‘break down’ and is there an alternative? For example, a paper dome lid (instead of plastic?) I get the impression it still takes decades for PLA plastic to decompose.

    Kind regards
    Sam Newsome

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