What Material Are Bubble Tea Cups Made Of?

Bubble tea cup on ground in ample lighted room

To make informed choices about the recyclability and environmental impact of bubble tea cups, it’s crucial to understand the materials used in their construction. Bubble tea cups are available in various materials, each with its unique characteristics and implications for recycling.

1. Plastic Bubble Tea Cups

Plastic is one of the most common materials used for bubble tea cups. Polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) are the primary types of plastics employed in the industry. These plastics are chosen for their durability and versatility, making them suitable for holding both hot and cold beverages.

  • Polypropylene (PP): PP is a type of plastic known for its heat resistance and strength. It is often used for the cup body and lids of bubble tea cups.
  • Polyethylene (PE): PE is another plastic commonly found in bubble tea cup construction. It is used for straws and occasionally for cup components.
Bubble tea cup variety
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

2. Paper Bubble Tea Cups

Some bubble tea establishments offer paper cups as an alternative to plastic. Paper cups are typically lined with a thin layer of plastic or wax to make them waterproof, ensuring they can hold the liquid without leaking.

  • Paper: The main body of paper bubble tea cups is typically made from paperboard or cardboard. This paper material is renewable and biodegradable, making it a more eco-friendly choice compared to pure plastic.
  • Lining: The inner lining of paper cups can vary. Some cups use a plastic lining, while others opt for a bio-based or compostable lining to enhance their eco-friendliness.
Paper bubble tea cups
5 different colorful bubble tea cups made of paper

Impact on Recycling

The material of the bubble tea cup significantly affects its recyclability:

  • Plastic Cups: While technically recyclable, plastic bubble tea cups face recycling challenges. Their size and shape can complicate the recycling process, and they are prone to contamination from sugary or flavored liquids. However, advancements in recycling technology and efforts to improve plastic recycling infrastructure may increase their recyclability in the future.
  • Paper Cups: Paper bubble tea cups are generally more environmentally friendly than plastic ones. The paper portion is recyclable, but the recyclability of the inner lining depends on its composition. Some bio-based or compostable linings may be more sustainable but require specific recycling processes.


Understanding the materials used in bubble tea cups is essential for making eco-conscious choices. Plastic cups dominate the market due to their durability, while paper cups are a greener alternative when properly disposed of. As awareness of environmental issues continues to grow, the bubble tea industry is exploring more sustainable materials and recycling options, offering hope for a more eco-friendly future in bubble tea consumption.

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