Your Classic Tailgating Cup Is Not Recyclable

solo cups

No one can deny that the red Solo cup is a cultural icon: it makes us think of tailgating, BBQs, college parties and more recently, Toby Keith’s hugely popular song. However, before you fill one up this season, keep in mind that the rigid plastic #6 cup is not recyclable curbside. And when thrown away, it doesn’t take a quick 14 years to decompose, as Keith’s lyrics suggest. Estimates range closer to 450 years.

That’s a long time, especially if you consider that, according to, 500 billion disposable cups are consumed every year. They’re one of the contributors to the 8 million metric tons of plastic that pours into our oceans every year. Plastic is a problem that isn’t going away on its own.

So what can you use instead of disposable cups? Switch to reusable! If you’re not in charge of party planning, just BYO reusable cup! Reusable plastic or aluminum work well — you can use a spare thermos, water bottle or even a glass mason jar.

If you’re party planning and want traditional red cups, you can check out these reusable ones from Red Cup Living. Another option: the University of Colorado Boulder just released reusable aluminum cups for their new football season. The aluminum cups are difficult to break, keep your drink cold longer, and are dishwasher-friendly. They’re also the right size for beer pong.

If you’re stuck on disposable, look for a cup made from plastic #1, which is recyclable in most places. Avoid plastic cups labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” — these plastics are not recyclable, and recyclable plastic is better for the environment.

That said, if your tailgating party just won’t be the same without the classic Solo cups, reuse them as much as you can, and then ship them — free of charge — to TerraCycle’s recycling program.