Revealed: That coffee cup you think is recyclable isn't - none of them are

A New Zealand coffee cup maker has been forced to retract claims they're recyclable, even though they are, because recycling facilities don't accept them. 

The Commerce Commission launched an investigation into Glopac last year, and on Tuesday said it had formally warned the Christchurch-based company, whose cups - made entirely of paper - are plastic-free and compostable.

Many disposable cups have a plastic lining, and can't presently be recycled in New Zealand. Because it's difficult to tell which do and don't have plastic, "to avoid contaminating recycling streams, facilities do not accept any hot drink cups", the commission said.

But Glopac on its website and social media said they were recyclable, which while technically true, the commission said was possibly in breach of the Fair Trading Act.

"Consumers are increasingly considering the environment when making purchasing decisions,"said chair Anna Rawlings.

"Glopac focused on the fact that the product was technically capable of being recycled, rather than the realities of what will be accepted for recycling in New Zealand and the likelihood that consumers would expect the product could be disposed of in recycling waste streams, when it could not."

Glopac reportedly told the commission it assumed customers would know which products could and couldn't be recycled, but removed the claims from its site anyway, as well as the cups themselves. 

"We want to encourage New Zealand businesses to be innovative," said Rawlings."However, when developing new products, businesses need to carefully consider how consumers may interpret any claims they make about their products to ensure the claims are clear and not misleading."

Glopac, which counts Burger King, Carl's Jr, Coca-Cola, Nescafe and KFC amongst its clients, has been approached for comment. 

If you're not keen to throw the cups in the trash, they're fully compostable.

"I personally put it in my own domestic compost bin and it went in just over three weeks," general manager Chris Thomson told Newshub in 2020, when the cups were launched. "I've also put it in seawater and just again over three weeks it just dissolves."