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Starbucks Cup Sleeves to Cut Raw Fibers 34%

Starbucks has launched EarthSleeve, a compostable hot-cup sleeve that the coffee company says decreases raw fiber material use by 34 percent and increases post-consumer content by 25 percent, compared to similar products.

Manufactured in Cicero, Ill. by LBP Manufacturing with Henkel adhesives, the EarthSleeve is being introduced at Starbucks locations across the US and Canada. Starbucks is also evaluating it for global use.

The company says it represents half the marketplace for hot-cup sleeves. About 3 billion were produced in the US in 2011, according to the 2012 Foodservice Disposable Packaging Assessment.

In addition to decreasing hot-cup sleeves’ raw material makeup with a total usage of 85 percent post-consumer fiber content, Starbucks says the EarthSleeve also improves case cube and truckload yield by 15 percent compared to traditional sleeves, reducing the overall environmental impact of transporting the product.

Both ASTM and Cedar Grove requirements have deemed the EarthSleeve fully compostable, and it has recently been approved for repulpability by Western Michigan University, according to Starbucks.

Starbucks is also increasingly bearing the costs of recycling its own packaging, which the company then turns into other products. The company, 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. These cups are then shipped to a Green Bay, Wis., facility where they are mixed with other recyclables and turned into napkins for use in Starbucks locations.

Additionally, Starbucks is looking into technology to turn used cups into serving trays.

A report published this month by nonprofit As You Sow said the US should adopt an extended producer responsibility policy, shifting the responsibility for post-consumer waste to the companies that produce the packaging. In the study, As You Sow reported $11 billion worth of recyclable materials are wasted annually.

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