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Throwback Thursday: When a Red Plastic Solo Cup Was Celebrated

Country singer Toby Keith’s 2011 hit “Red Solo Cup” is likely the most plastic-packaging-forward song ever.

Rick Lingle

July 14, 2022

While driving across rural Illinois on US Highway 30 a couple weeks back, I scanned the radio dial to see what stations and formats were available.

That’s when a song that mentioned plastic packaging was heard amidst the spectrum of static and other voices. I’d never heard it before, but it had a catchy tune, and the lyrics were amusing.

It was a fun song that had me smiling as I drove through the countryside on a picture-perfect summer day.

What was most amazing was that it sang the praises of a plastic cup. In fact, the male vocalist at one point says, “I love you red Solo cup.”

That’s when I knew it had to be an old song. I mean, who would sing about single-use plastic packaging these days, much less in a highly positive way?

Turned out it was a hit by country singer Toby Keith, “Red Solo Cup,” from ten-plus years ago. It’s a drinking and partying song. In fact, that’s exactly what Keith is doing in an unedited music video of the song if you’d like to check that out on YouTube. More than 64 million people have seen that one including me. It’s not as reserved as the YouTube embed seen above.

Lyrical highlights that praise the cup:

“Red solo cup is the best receptacle, For barbecues, tailgates, fairs, and festivals.”

“I really love how you're easy to stack.”

“I have to admit that the ladies get smitten, Admirin' at how sharply my first name is written,  On you with a Sharpie.”

“Now, I've seen you in blue and I've seen you in yellow, But only you, red, will do for this fellow.”

“Red solo cup, you're more than just plastic, You're more than amazing, you're more than fantastic, And believe me that I am not the least bit sarcastic.”

“Red solo cup, you're not just a cup, You're my…you're my friend.”

I got a kick out of it and shared it with family.

You can’t please everyone — it was apparently not universally well-received back in the day, even Keith criticized it. He called it "the stupidest song I ever heard in my life” according to Wikipedia’s citation, and Insider ranked it as the second worst song of the decade.

However, fans agree with me. It was certified double platinum by the RIAA after selling two million digital downloads, which also makes it Keith's career top seller. 

Lastly, here are key factoids from the Solo Cup Co. website About page:

1936: Leo Hulseman founded the SOLO Cup Company, making paper cone cups.

1970s: The Hulseman family expanded the paper product portfolio to include plastic cups — originally in red, blue, yellow, and peach.

1976: The iconic plastic Solo Cup was patented

As the brand suggests and as Keith and friends did in his music video, “Let’s SOLObrate good times together!”

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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