Starbucks Coffee Company, International Paper and Mississippi River Pulp say they have completed a six-week pilot project that – for the first time – proves Starbucks used paper cups can be recycled into new paper cups. This test brings Starbucks one step closer to its goal of 100 percent of its cups being reusable or recyclable by 2015.
“We still have a lot of work to do to reach our 2015 goal, but we’re now in a much stronger position to build momentum across the recycling industry,” said Jim Hanna, Starbucks director of Environmental Impact. “Our next step is to test this concept in a major city, which we plan to do in collaboration with International Paper and Mississippi River in 2011.”
While some communities already recycle Starbucks paper cups, most do not have the infrastructure in place to handle collection, hauling, and processing due to a lack of demand for cup material by the recycling industry. To date, Mississippi River is the only pulp mill in the U.S. that has successfully recycled used cups into fiber suitable for producing new cups.
“What’s really exciting about the cup-to-cup concept is that it has the potential to benefit not only Starbucks, but the entire foodservice industry,” said Greg Wanta, vice president of International Paper Foodservice, the largest manufacturer of Starbucks paper cups. “If we can continue to prove the value of used cup material generated by Starbucks and other retailers, we can help increase recycling rates in communities across the country.”
Starbucks currently has another recycling pilot project underway in New York. The company is collecting paper cups at 86 of its Manhattan stores to determine whether they can be recycled into bath tissue and paper towels. In early 2011, Starbucks plans to launch a new recycling pilot in Chicago, aiming to transform the company’s discarded paper cups into napkins for use in its stores.
Over the past year, Starbucks has introduced front-of-store cup collection in Toronto and Seattle, where its cups can be recycled, and in San Francisco, where its cups can be composted.
In April, a 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.