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Starbucks Shareholders Vote Down ‘Aggressive’ Recycling Initiative

StarbuckscoffeecupA Starbucks shareholder request to increase recycling was voted down at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders, although 11 percent of shareholders voted in favor, which activists said should get the attention of the coffee house chain, reports Seattle Times.

The proposal requested that Starbucks consider a more aggressive recycling strategy and goals for materials consumed in the stores and when they leave their doors, reports Triple Pundit. Starbucks, similar to the bottled water industry, is a target for criticism partly due to its direct contribution to landfills, which is about 3 billion coffee cups per year, according to the Web site.

It’s also reported that Starbucks does not supply recycling bins in their store locations except in San Francisco, and has no plans to use recycled plastic in the bottles of its Ethos Water brand. However, several big brands of bottled-water have reduced the amount of plastic in their bottles in response to public criticism that bottled water is wasteful.

Conrad MacKerron at the As You Sow Foundation, who helped write the recycling initiative, told the Seattle Times that he was “happily surprised” at the 11 percent vote and that similar proposals presented to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo resulted in major recycling initiatives at both companies.

Starbucks recommended that shareholders vote down the measure because it already had a recycling program in place. Starbucks stated that the cups contain 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber and some are recyclable and compostable in some parts of the country. The coffee chain previously reported that 70 percent of its stores recycled at least one type of waste where commercial recycling is available.

In addition, Starbucks announced in March that it’s sponsoring the Betacup design competition to look for a solution to unrecyclable paper coffee cups. The company is sponsoring the competition as part of its target goal to supply 100 percent of its coffee in reusable or recyclable cups by 2015.

Starbucks said in an e-mail to Seattle Times that it will “continue to work with a variety of stakeholders on this issue and are open to any suggestions from As You Sow or others.”

Triple Pundit suggests that Starbucks is missing the boat on this initiative particularly since environmental groups such as Climate Counts, Greenpeace and As You Sow help sell products when they are listed high in their environmental rankings.

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10 thoughts on “Starbucks Shareholders Vote Down ‘Aggressive’ Recycling Initiative

  1. While I’m sensitive to the fact that “sustainability” also means the company must stay financially viable, I wonder if this will hurt the Starbucks brand in the long run? Part of Starbucks’ brand appeal is its progressive stance on CSR issues. Perhaps the proposal’s recommendations were economically unfeasible?

  2. One big thing they could do is ask you when you place your order if you want a To-Go cup or a ceramic cup. I was a customer for over 10 years before I realized they had ceramic cups for use in their stores. That’s just not right.

  3. Why is it that reduce and reuse has been thrown under the bus for the manic obsession with recycling as the pinnacle of environmentalism?

  4. Wow! this has huge implications for Starbucks customers. With the less than sustainable Via instant coffee packets soon to be littering streets and landfills, this decision speaks to the heart of the Starbucks organization. I know how I will vote, with my pocketbook and my mouth, and will choose to look elsewhere for coffee!

  5. I agree with Greg. I will definitely make it know that I disagree with Starbucks lack of enthusiasm for offering recycling bins for their customers. All of their plastic “cold” cups, water bottles, and prepackaged food products are made with PETE and they serve numerous beverages in glass. Their customers should be offered a place to recycle them in the very least.

  6. @Tein – Good idea, and requires minimal investment for a potentially big impact for customers not leaving the store. As Danika points out, reduction and reuse of resources are going to be a big component of solving this issue. I’m part of the team running the betacup contest, and I think your idea could spark some discussion – would you submit it to the contest at http://www.jovoto.com/contests/drink-sustainably? Starbucks is sponsoring us with $20,000 in prize money for good ideas. Full details about the project are available at http://www.thebetacup.com


  7. Starbucks is a farse. They carry eco-friendly, progressive, recycled merchandise yet they produce tons of waste in our landfills. It’s shocking to see such blatent hypocricy. yet the masses will continue to line up at starbucks and fill the garbage with thick plastic cups and doubled paper cups.

  8. A couple of thoughts…
    1. Collections bins for hot cups sound grt….only if the collected cups can be recycled. If the local waste hauler has no way to recycle the cups…they likely go to a landfill. VERY FEW places can actually recycle the cups at this point in time
    2. Bring in your own mug – keep in mind that you have to wash it w/ hot water, soap, rinse it etc….that’s a lot of energy used to heat water, water itself, etc…..so which is more “sustainable?
    You decide…..

  9. Many times it depends on where a starbucks is located and if they actually have the space to have a recycling cart or dumpster. Many starbucks do have recycling. Property managers for shopping centers are very resistant on a whole to spend money for recycling containers.Many times there is just not room in the enclosures for another dumpster which many Cities require for an additional recycling dumpster. It’s not always as simple as it appears. Many of the Starbucks that currently do not recycle would love to be able to recycle but have issues with the property managers that charge enormouse rents and maintenance fees that includes their garbage and should cover their recycling needs as well. On the other hand,there are many groups especially non profits for the disabled that would gladly come & collect any bottles and cans from any business that would find the space for a recycling container inside their store. There is always a way where there is a will. Bringing YOUR OWN MUG usually gets you a small discount

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