Disposable Paper Cups Can Hold Water for How Long?

I don’t see plastic and styrofor packaging applications being completely replaced by papers anytime soon, but the current developments I observed are nice. Sando bags are being replaced by brown paper bags, reusable cloth bags and the non-completely environment friendly oxo-biodegradable plastics. Styrofor lunch boxes, cups and plastic cups are being replaced by paper versions.

Yesterday, February 9,2013, I gathered three disposable paper cups. These cups were used to contain hot instant coffee from a coffee vending machine. I placed each cup on a petri plate and half filled with tap water.

three empty coffee paper cupspaper cups coffee petri dish waterWhat’s next?

I just want to find out how long it can hold water. The cups are made of papers. I assume that sooner or later, it will destroy itself by absorbing the water molecules. Maybe not, if it is nicely applied with wax or plastic film coating.


Update as of February 21, 2013

After 11 days of observations, there was no sign of water on petri plates. I lifted each cup and inspected the sides and bottom carefully. No wettings. No signs of water sipping through the paper cup and in between seams. It looks like this type of paper can really hold water for considerable length of time.

three coffee paper cups



  • Exactly what i needed to know to set up an office April Fool’s prank today (Saturday) with the security of knowing it will last until Monday. THANKS!

  • Interesting tests, in theory these cups should hold water indefinitely due to their PE / PLA inner coating. The paper should never really come into direct contact with the liquid.

    I run a store that sells a huge range of disposable paper takeaway cups, you can see the full range at: http://innsupplies.com/disposable/paper-cups . Would you be interested in doing some further and more intensive testing on this? I’m happy to supply the cups for your testing, we do PE and PLA coating cups, as well as uncoated water cones for comparison. I’d love to see some testing done on the topic, we’d then feature your findings on our blog if that’s ok?

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