Of course, the best is to bring your own cup to the coffee shop, but, in fact, scores of people still use paper cups at coffee shops around the country. Now Starbucks has proved that used paper cups can be recycled into new paper cups.
The cup-to-cup pilot was conceived earlier this year at Starbucks’ second cup summit, which was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The two-day symposium convened government officials, raw material suppliers, cup manufacturers, retail and beverage businesses, recyclers, conservation groups, and academic experts to develop a plan for improving local recycling systems.
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.”
“We’re looking forward to working with Starbucks, International Paper, and other stakeholders to take the pilot project to the next level,” said Rob Garland, chief executive officer at Mississippi River. “Based on what we’ve seen so far, we think this is a very promising path.”
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.