Starbucks announced it will begin recycling coffee cups from its Chicago locations, according to a report in the Seattle Times. Beginning in the fall, it will send used cups from its Chicago stores to Green Bay where a Georgia Pacific paper mill will turn them into Starbucks napkins.
The company has also been required to begin recycling or composting coffee cups at its 90 Seattle locations in order to comply with a city-wide ordinance mandating restaurants to recycle and compost. The company is also currently recycling or composting its waste in San Francisco and Ontario in order to comply with local laws.
Starbucks also said it was able to negotiate with recyclers to accept its cups without having to change the design, though the cups are not compostable.
But the company voted down a recent shareholder proposal to expand its recycling efforts. The Board of Directors had recommended shareholders vote against the proposal, which it said already conflicted with its existing recycling plans. The company has also said it has no plans to switch to recycled plastic for its Ethos brand of bottled water, despite similar moves by other bottled water manufacturers.
The company has announced plans to switch to cups that are reusable or recyclable and offer front-of-store recycling in all of its locations by 2015. Currently, the company offers recycling in 399 of its 7,529 stores, about 5 percent.
Starbucks says one of the biggest roadblocks to recycling is a lack of demand among recyclers for old paper, which is not as much in demand as the aluminum from soft drink cans. The company is sponsoring the Betacup competition, which is looking into design options to replace coffee cups that can’t be recycled. Karma Cup, a system for tracking and rewarding customer use of reusable cups, recently won the award. According to Betacup, 58 billion paper coffee cups are thrown away each year.
Some of Starbucks Seattle locations have jumped on the recycling bandwagon years ago, though those initiatives were led by employees and not by the corporation.