Starbucks has promised that 100 percent of its cups will be reusable or recyclable by 2015, but that doesn’t mean none will end up in landfills. To deal with the challenges of cup recycling, the company hosted its third ‘Cup Summit’ last week in Boston convening more than 100 industry leaders – including Starbuck’s competitors – to discuss industry standards and solutions for the recyclability of drink packaging in the U.S. and Canada.
This year’s symposium again convened representatives from all facets of the paper and plastic cup value chain, including municipalities, raw material suppliers, cup manufacturers, beverage retailers, recyclers, NGOs, and academic experts, to hear about participants’ progress on action plans from the previous Cup Summits and formulate strategic actions for the upcoming year.
Recycling cups is a complex problem that will not be solved overnight. The Boston Globe explains, “Currently, recycling companies want to focus on other materials, like cardboard and aluminum, for which there is an attractive resale market. That’s not the case with paper cups, forcing Starbucks to try to collect as many of its own cups as it can, strike deals with companies to recycle them, and then agree in some cases to buy back the material.”
The coffee chain has since implemented recycling in 18 markets, establishing relationships with several municipalities to accept cup refuse collected in specific bins at its stores. Working directly with paper mills around the U.S. and Canada, in the past year alone, Starbucks has tested the compatibility of post-consumer cups for paper recycling operations trying to create a demand for their cups from the paper and plastics industries.
The Foodservice Packaging Institute announced at this year’s Summit the formation of a coalition of restaurant and food packaging industry leaders that will, over the next year, take a systemic look at how single-use cups and food packaging could be more recyclable.
Starbucks beverages account for approximately four billion cups globally per year, all of which are made of 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber and can be recycled, but most still end up in landfills.
“In Massachusetts, Starbucks is working with RockTenn to collect the cups, recycle them, and sell the material to paper mills,” according to the report in the Boston newspaper. “In some markets, such as New York and Chicago, the company is working with paper mills and recycling centers to turn some of the recycled paper cups into napkins used by Starbucks.”