Starbucks Kicks Off Cup-Recycling Pilot Program in NYC

Starbucks Kicks Off Cup-Recycling Pilot Program in NYC

Starbucks coffee cup -- CC licensed by Flickr user powerbooktrance

Starbucks launched a pilot program in seven New York stores last week that could help the company move toward its goal of making all of its coffee cups recyclable by 2012.

Starbucks and Global Green USA's Coalition for Resource Recovery will use the program to examine the collection and recycling of the coffee cups while in the same waste stream as old corrugated cardboard (OCC). Results will be announced in November.

"The lessons learned from the cup recycling pilot can be applied to the recycling of hamburger, pizza, and French fry containers, and all sorts of other paper food packaging," Annie White, Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) director, said in a statement. "If the initial pilot is successful, CoRR will expand the pilot to encompass more packaging types and restaurants, furthering our objective of generating business value and closing the loop on packaging."

Three billion Starbucks coffee cups end up in landfills every year, in large part because they can't be composted or recycled in most communities because of a thin polyethylene plastic coating that prevents liquid leakage. 

Although they typically aren't being processed to their highest value, Western Michigan University's Coating and Recycling Pilot Plant certified the cups to be as recyclable and repulpable based on the Fibre Box Association's Wax Alternative Protocol. They will be collected in special paper bin liners along with OCC and sent to Pratt Industries, where they will be compared to existing feedstock for recyclability and repulpability.

The company announced its 2012 goal in October 2009 before 10,000 baristas. The company first debuted a cup made with recycled content in 2004, a version with 10 percent recycled materials which took two years to develop and required approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. At the time the company said the new cups would reduce its dependence on tree fiber by more than five million pounds annually.

Images of Starbucks coffee cups CC licensed by Flickr user powerbooktrance