Plastic Tumblers PC vs SAN

Beverage Cups

Selecting the Optimal Plastic Tumblers for High-Volume Usage

For many foodservice providers, plastic tumblers are the first choice for drinkware.  However, do you understand why you are ordering the plastic tumblers that you are?  Is it due to being how things always have been done?  Or are you educated regarding their materials and that is why you have decided that they are the best option for your business?

It is not always easy to change old habits, thus commonly, the answer to this question is usually due to being how things have always been done.  However, it is important to possess knowledge about the products that you are deciding between so that your foodservice needs are met.

In this post we will compare two of the most popular types of plastics used for drinkware within the foodservice industry.  Ultimately, it is our hope that from this post you will better understand whether PC or SAN is the best option for your establishment.

Unitedplastics plastic novelty cups

Exploring Plastics – PC versus SAN

Considering that these two choices are both plastic polymers frequently utilized in food-safe applications, it should come as no surprise that there are similarities.  However, despite their similarities there are various pros and cons for each of these materials that influence aesthetics, stability, and longevity.

Let us take a closer look at what qualities are shared by PC (polycarbonate) and SAN (styrene-acrylonitrile):

  • More durable than other plastic options
  • Dishwasher safe, but not microwave safe
  • Easily personalized
  • Exceptional clarity – comparable to that of glassware

While many plastic tumblers are often designed with a casual look, there is the option of designing them to fit more formal settings.  It is possible to add colors or even your brand’s logo to your tumblers, or it is possible to design them with the elegance and clarity of glassware.  It is necessary to consider your business needs when choosing between these options, as this drinkware will remain with the guests throughout the entirety of their dining experience.  Does your enterprise require a casual aesthetic with your brand’s logo, or does it require glassware clarity and the subtle elegant aesthetic it provides?

In summation, both options grant various options for designs and styles to fit your foodservice needs.

Performance Differences in a High-Volume Kitchen Environment

When comparing strengths and weaknesses between PC and SAN, the differences between the two become apparent – durability is an excellent example to highlight their difference.

Foodservice is often a fast-paced industry that alludes to a busy kitchen with high-volume.  Due to this, tumblers are likely to be washed very often – likely more than 1,000 times a year.  Tumblers made with PC show visible evidence of wear after merely 100 washes.  Whereas tumblers constructed with SAN did not show this evidence of wear all the way up to 1,000 washes.  The difference in structural integrity between these two products’ dishwashing performance is clear – PC performs much more poorly than SAN based products regarding longevity and durability of the product.  The rate of replacement would be 10 (PC) to 1 (SAN).

PC versus SAN – Drop Test

A fast-paced environment in the foodservice industry often leads to errors and mistakes – commonly, items in the kitchen will be dropped.  The same study that showed the difference in integrity post dishwashing, also conducted a drop test.

The results of this test were clear, PC outperformed SAN in the drop test.  It is likely that quality of the product plays a role in this case, however, SAN can take damage in the form of chips or cracks when dropped on a hard surface only once.  It is not a guarantee that this will happen, but there is a possibility.

Clarity – PC versus SAN

Both materials have good clarity, but PC does tend to be more clear.  SAN has a higher likelihood of having faint tinting in the colors of blue or yellow – this is due to the manufacturing process’ effect on the raw materials.

This may not be such an important factor, especially if you’re considering colored tumblers for your enterprise.  However, if you want a guaranteed clear tumbler – then PC is the better option.

BPA in Foodservice

The FDA keeps a watchful eye on the allowed levels of BPA in surfaces that contact food.  Currently, the FDA maintains that BPA is safe for use in food packaging and in food containers.

If BPA is a deal-breaker for you, than SAN is the better option – as it contains no trace of BPA.  However, PC will always contain BPA as it is part of the raw materials utilized to construct it.

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Which Material is Ideal for Your Plastic Tumblers?

In general, plastic tumblers provide a great option for drinkware in high-volume foodservice applications.  Since they do not shatter like glass, it makes them the much safer option for workers and patrons alike.  Additionally, since they are more durable than glass – they save money in the long-term by not having to replace as many tumblers.

When deciding which option is best for you, consider what your business needs.  If you are going to be washing the plastic tumblers very often, then SAN is a better choice for you than PC – as it will keep cost down.  If you feel that these cups will be dropped very often or are stored in an environment that they get knocked over often, then PC may be a better option for you than SAN.  If clarity is of paramount importance, than PC is a more consistent option than SAN, though SAN is not far off the mark.

Both materials work well in high-volume foodservice applications.  Whichever material you choose, should depend heavily on what is important to your enterprise.  You are now armed with the information to make an informed decision and discuss these options with your boss and other management.

Consider the key takeaways:

  • PC and SAN are customizable  and fit a wide range of aesthetic options
    • Colors, logos, designs, etc.
    • SAN sometimes has a slight yellow or blue tint to it
  • SAN performs better in commercial dishwashers than PC
  • PC performs better in drop tests than SAN
  • SAN does not contain BPA but PC does

Regardless of your chosen material, your plastic tumblers should be properly cared for and maintained.  This will assist in getting the best service life from these products.  Easy Steps to Extend Plastic Drinkware’s Service Life is a great resource to assist in developing a maintenance plan for your plastic tumblers.

We would love to hear your opinions on plastic drinkware!  If you have any questions or concerns, please leave a comment and we will be happy to answer with all the amazing things plastic drinkware can do for your foodservice organization!

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United Plastics is a Plastic Drinkware Manufacturer and Supplier