Starbucks Rallies Recyclers to Accept Coffee Cups

By Kara DiCamillo

‘Tis the season for caffeine breaks. And while we hope that everyone is using reusable cups for their coffee and hot cocoa, we do have some promising news from Starbucks that the company wants to provide only recyclable or reusable cups by 2015, just in case we forget those reusable ones. Currently the cups that Starbucks uses have about 10 percent recycled content, but they wants to take it one step further.

The company just wrapped up a recent six-week pilot recycling project, which took about 8,000 collected cups. All of the cups were sent to Mississippi River Pulp, a company that has been providing the post-consumer content that’s been in Starbucks’ cups since 2006.

Starbucks’ cups are presently being recycled in Toronto and Seattle, and composted in San Francisco. As we’ve recently reported, the company has been conducting projects in New York City (collecting cups with corrugated cardboard that were turned into pulp for use in paper towels) and another project launched in the fall in Chicago (turning cups into napkins for its stores). The tests are in hopes that the major relevant paper and recycling companies can come together to reduce the amount of cups that head to the trash each year.

But the project with Mississippi River Pulp is different from the others. Why? Interesting enough, it’s the only company that can provide pulp for products that will come into contact with food or drinks because it’s the only one that’s gotten a thumbs-up from the FDA. Mississippi River Pulp sends the pulp to various paper product companies, including International Paper and others that make Starbucks’ cups.

Surprisingly, the optical scanners that now filter out milk and juice paper cartons can also sort out coated cups, according to Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ director of environmental impact. He says the programs and tests that Starbucks has conducted have shown that recyclers can separate the plastic lining from coffee cups and that food contamination can be filtered out, which have been two of the biggest concerns.

Of course, getting states and recyclers to take the coated cups would not just be good news for the 10 million cups of coffee that Starbucks sells on a daily basis, but also for the billions of other paper cups that are used yearly as well. Let’s hope Starbucks continues to get the word out there about the tests they’re conducting, as well as encouraging consumers to bring in their reusables.

Photo via: Sincerely Sustainable

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