Food and drink companies such as Starbucks are increasingly bearing the costs of recycling their own packaging, which they then turn into new products, according to the New York Times.
Simple economics is driving the trend of “extended producer responsibility,” the article says. As the after-effects of the recession continue to bite, local authorities are short of money and are looking for places to offload costly recycling programs, and companies that make packaging are “logical candidates,” a Starbucks director quoted in the article says.
On the other side of the issue, resources are becomes more and more scarce, and as such, it is making more and more financial sense to recycle rather than create new. For example, it is now significantly cheaper to make an aluminum from recycled cans than to process virgin material, according to the piece.
Starbucks, which has a goal of offering front-of-store recycling in all of its company-owned coffee shops by 2015, has developed a “closed loop” recycling system in its Chicago stores. Cups from its Windy City coffee shops are shipped to a Green Bay, Wis., facility where they are mixed with other recyclables and turned into napkins for use in Starbucks locations. The company is also investigating how it might turn used cups into serving trays.
In a similar vein, Green Mountain College in Vermont announced plans earlier this month to buy products upcycled from its own waste paper, plastic, glass, and metal, through a program Casella Waste Systems. Universal Lubricants recently released an engine oil, designed for compressed natural gas trucks, that is manufactured in a closed loop system Universal both supplies the product and collects it after it has been used, so it can re-refine it.
Meanwhile, yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm collected about 11 million used yogurt cups through Whole Foods locations last year. Most municipalities do not recycle the No. 5 plastic cups.
In September 2011, a panel discussion at the B4E Climate Summit 2011 called such closed-loop thinking the next step in resource management. A video of the discussion can be watched here.