Starbuck’s continuing search for “the” recyclable coffee cup

Starbucks is on a quest to find the perfect recyclable coffee cup

For those of you who are new(ish) to this blog, two years ago I wrote about a pilot program that Starbucks embarked on in New York City to recycle their coffee cups.  Last year, their shareholders nixed the opportunity to increase their recycling throughout all their stores nationwide.

The Seattle-based company has continued its efforts, however, to find the perfect recyclable coffee cup. But so far it’s proved to be an elusive treasure.

With a goal of introducing this innovation in 2015, the stumbling block remains the cups´ polyethylene liner. considered a contaminant by the waste industry in the paper recycling process.

Starbucks has initiated pilot projects to give their used coffee cups a second life

Starbucks isn’t alone in their quest. At their recently convened Coffee Summit at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),  a number of their competitors including McDonald’s were present, along with Action Carting Environmental Services Inc., the solid waste management company involved in Starbuck’s New York pilot recycling program.

“What is the silver bullet,” said Jim Hanna, Starbucks Director of Environmental Impact. ” What is the perfect material out there that we can make this cup out of that will make this cup recyclable?”

Not surprisingly, Starbucks quickly discovered that there is no quick, easy solution. So the coffee purveyor initiated a number of pilot programs as part of their quest to give used coffee cups a useful second life.

It’s a worthy goal. If the solution is found and its cost is within reach, this would mean the diversion of hundreds of tons of used coffee cups from landfills. As Americans continue their love affair with coffee – whether it’s driving out of their garage to go across town or walking down to the corner to get their caffeine “fix” – finding a real workable solution to this issue would make a real difference.

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