Update: Earlier this week, Starbucks announced that it's another step closer to its goal of developing a more recyclable and compostable cup by 2022. On Monday, the coffee chain began in-market testing of a more sustainable cup technology from its NextGen Cup Challenge. A new BioPBS™-lined cup is now in circulation at select stores in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and London.
According to the company's official news release, these tests will show how the newly designed cup affects the in-store experience of employees and customers. The goal is that there will be no noticeable differences in performance between the new cup and the current cup. Along with Closed Loop Partners, Starbucks is also conducting tests that will show if the new BioPBS™-lined cup can be recycled more easily than the current cup.
This test couldn't come at a better time, since Starbucks also announced earlier this week that it's temporarily suspending its bring your own cup policy, which allows customers to get their coffee orders in reusable cups and mugs. This decision was made based on guidance from the CDC as a measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. At least some customers in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and London will be able to recycle their Starbucks cups since the most sustainable option is off the table for the time being.
This story was originally published on March 21, 2018.
For some of us, coffee is the highlight of our day. Its taste and its aroma make us excited to get out of bed in the morning, while its caffeine content makes the act physically possible. As much as we adore the beverage however, we could do without all the waste those disposable cups from our regular coffee runs cause. One of the world's biggest coffee chains is acknowledging that it is part of the problem and is doing something to cut back on all that waste. Yesterday, Starbucks announced new measures it is taking to combat cup waste.
Just for some background — in case you've long been throwing your Starbucks cups in the blue bin — those iconic white cups with their green siren logo are not recyclable everywhere. You may have noticed that each cup appears to be shiny inside, and that's because it's coated with a liner that prevents leaks. That liner, it turns out, cannot be recycled in many places. If you live in larger cities like NYC, it's more likely that there are infrastructures in place that allow the liner to be recycled. In many areas, though, recycling Starbucks cup just isn't possible.
Starbucks agrees that this is a problem, which is why it wants to try and change its cups. "No one is satisfied with the incremental industry progress made to date, it’s just not moving fast enough. So today, we are declaring a moon shot for sustainability to work together as an industry to bring a fully recyclable and compostable cup to the market, with a three-year ambition," explained Colleen Chapman, vice president of Starbucks global social impact overseeing sustainability.
To combat the issue of cup waste, the company teamed up with Closed Loop Partners, which invests in sustainable consumer goods, to develop a recyclable and compostable cup. Together, the companies have committed $10 million to this venture, and their goal is to work toward "a global end-to-end solution," meaning they want to produce a cup that can be manufactured, used, fully recycled, and then made back into cups.
That goal, however, will take time to achieve, which is why Starbucks has another project in the works. The company's internal R&D team will begin testing a new bio-liner, which is made in part from plant-based material. The goal with this bio-liner is to increase the recyclability of Starbucks' cups. The test is expected to last 6 months.
In the meantime, we can take personal steps to reduce waste coffee run-related waste. Many coffee shops, for instance, welcome customers to bring their own reusable cups. At Starbucks, bringing your own cup results in a 10 cent discount.