Starbucks breaks new sustainability grounds by proving that you can recycle coffee cups
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Starbucks breaks new sustainability grounds by proving that you can recycle coffee cups

Paper coffee cups can’t be recycled – at least, not cost effectively. That’s the myth, and it is why many recycling services simply won’t accept them. Starbucks, long a corporate champion of sustainability (amongst other ethical concerns) has just blown that myth out of the water. Earlier this year, the company sent 18 truckloads of old paper cups to a paper mill in Wisconsin. It had a point to prove, and the 25 million cups (which would otherwise have been sent to the landfill) have been recycled into new coffee cups.

Starbucks’ share price has risen by 15% so far this year

graph 2911 starbucks

Source: Yahoo Finance

Once the paper cups were recycled into fibres, they were sent to a partner location to be transformed into new coffee cups. Jay Hunsberger, North American vice president of sales for Sustana (the mill that did the recycling), described it as a pilot project that could “demonstrate that a coffee cup can be turned back into a coffee cup.”

Westrock, the partner responsible for turning the recycled cups back into paperboard, concurred. Mike Mueller, the company’s senior manager of product marketing, said “There’s a misconception right now in the industry regarding the recyclability of poly-coated paperboard. I think that’s a big reason why that type of packaging isn’t accepted for recycling today broadly.”

Learn more about the recycling process in the video below

Starbucks has serious cachet with millennial consumers because of its principled stances. Its commitment to sustainability is one such stance, as are its willingness to pay its taxes and deliver decent wages to its staff. Its next big challenge is trying to push for conformity in recycling services across the U.S. – currently, they differ from city to city. Speaking to this goal, the company’s global director of environment, Rebecca Zimmer, said:

Significant inconsistencies in product recyclability exist from city to city based on service models, market access and investments made in infrastructure and technology. Starbucks advocates for a national approach to provide a more consistent experience for consumers. We hope this project will convince more mills across the country to be open to accepting paper cups in their recycle streams, a required step to scaling the operation to more municipal recycling service programs.”

Dominion holds Starbucks in its Global Trends Managed Fund.

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