In 2008, Starbucks publicly acknowledged that the plastic coatings it used on its paper cups made them impossible to recycle using the kinds of equipment deployed by municipalities around the world, and kicked off an annual competition to improve the cup design — but five years later, it shut the competition down, went on using the unrecyclable cups, and adopted the line that the world's taxpayers should foot the bill for upgrading recycling plants to accommodate its cups.
The cups themselves are made from high-quality paper that could be recycled several times, but the 100% oil-based polyethylene plastic linings — made by Dow and Chevron, among others — clog the recycling machines. Many discarded cups — and waste from the cup-manufacturing process — end up in China, but they're not recycled there, either — they just get landfilled.
Here's a petition to get Starbucks to make good on its promise of a 100% recyclable cup.
Starbucks would prefer that paper recycling mills be retrofitted to accept plastic-lined cups, but as Stand.earth points out, that would cost taxpayers billions of dollars. A cup redesign would be a far simpler, not to mention more responsible, approach. Stand.earth wants Starbucks' customers to speak out and to pressure the company to prioritize the development of a better cup. Even minor tweaks, such as offering paper straws instead of non-recyclable plastic ones, would make a big difference.
Starbucks' former director of environmental affairs, Jim Hannah, said, "The cup is our no. 1 environmental liability," but it could also make the company a number 1 environmental leader. It has the potential to revolutionize the takeout food industry, should it desire to, which remains to be seen. Customer pressure, however, can only help.
Starbucks cups are not recyclable, which means 4 billion go to landfill each year
(via Naked Capitalism)