Uses for Ever-Multiplying Plastic Cups


It’s remarkable that I am sharing ways to extend the life of plastic cups given the fact that I spent the first years of married life slowly getting rid of my husband’s collection of stadium cups. Of course I once had cups left over from college, but somehow I was not as personally attached to mine and experienced less pain when it was time to retire them.

Now I actually wince as I leave a football game clutching my family’s four empty cups and stepping over all those left behind. If 3 out of 4 of the 86,000 attendees purchase a soda, and half of those throw away those cups, my math tells me that’s 32,250 cups that are left to waste away in a landfill (hopefully many are recycled). My own controlled experiments prove that the cups are still functional after five years of use (though the graphics will have faded); so how long do all those cups take to decompose?

I figure if I re-use a cup just once for any purpose I’ve automatically doubled it’s expected utility.  To that end, I offer you some ways to use plastic cups so that they are again useful and possibly even prevent your having to purchase something else for the purpose:

Kids’ cups with lids

  • Snack storage – These are great for cheerios or other crushable snacks like cheese puffs. Use a cup instead of a baggie or plastic container and toss it after you get to your destination so there’s less to bring home
  • Crayon storage and dividers – A cup with a lid is great for storing crayons, though it needs to be pretty full to keep the crayons from smearing each other. Cups placed snugly within a tray or tote can serve as a craft kit with a spot for scissors, markers, and pencils held upright and separate.
  • Another benefit: Consider that most kids’ cups will fit in the outside cup pocket of diaper bags and backpacks, so you can reach whatever you store in them easily and without having to unzip or dig around anywhere.

Stadium and to-to plastic cups

  • Herbs – Keep fresh herbs upright in your fridge by filling a cup with an inch or less of water, then placing your parsley, cilantro, etc. inside with the stems positioned in the water. This will keep your herbs fresh longer than leaving them in the produce bag or laying them horizontally in a container.
  • Popcorn – Some of these cups are 32 and even 44 ounces. That’s as big or bigger than the popcorn bag you pay $4 for at the theater. If you’re saving money staying in, save a little more and re-use your giant cups for popcorn. Smaller hands in particular have no problem getting down to the very last kernel at the bottom.
  • Bathtime – These make great cups for the baby’s bath. Dip and pour until all the suds are rinsed away, and squeeze that cup as much as you need to make a pouring spout. So what if it splits? You’ve got others.
  • Disposable cups – Sure, the idea of re-using a plastic cup for a beverage is obvious, but if you trash your extra large Moe’s cup as you exit the restaurant, consider that a Solo party cup costs 3 – 5 cents. Use that Moe’s cup another time and you’ve saved yourself almost a nickel. Imagine a nickel saved every time you elect to re-use a plastic cup over a disposable party cup. You’re saving money and delaying the creation of more trash.

Give a few humble plastic cups a second act. They’re not just for broke college students and newlyweds.