Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starbucks Pilots Coffee Cup Recycling Program

Approximately 3 billion Starbucks coffee cups are sent to the landfill each year, but a new recycling program in New York may help to curb that statistic.

Through a partnership with Green Global USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR), seven Starbucks stores in Manhattan began participating in a pilot program last week. Paper coffee cups will be collected and combined with old corrugated cardboard (OCC) for recycling.

Starbucks has a goal to create a comprehensive recycling solution that will make the cups easier to recycle by 2012. Photo: Amanda Wills,
Until now, the thin polyethylene plastic coating that prevents liquid leakages has made it difficult for most commercial services to process the cups. For this reason, disposable coffee cups are only accepted for recycling in some communities in the U.S.

However, preliminary trials done at Western Michigan University’s Coating and Recycling Pilot Plant on samples of the cups found they are recyclable and re-pulpable.

Global Green USA reports that every year, 58 billion paper cups are used in the U.S. at restaurants, events and homes. If all paper cups in the U.S. were recycled, 645,000 tons of waste would be diverted from landfills each year.

According to Annie White, director of CoRR, “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.”

Cups will be collected in special paper liner bins along with OCC and delivered to Pratt Industries to be recycled. “Within 72 hours after being discarded, the cups collected in this demonstration program will be component in linerboard used to form New York’s take-out pizza boxes,” White said.

The results of the pilot program will be available in November.

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