Convenience vs SustainabilityIt’s been a roller coaster ride for Starbucks, the notorious corporate coffeehouse with headline-making openings, and then closings of hundreds of retail stores across the nation. With a brand that has such a history of having to match increasing demands in mass quantities, it makes sense that the recyclability of its cups has come into question. It’s all a numbers game. In small numbers, paper cups wouldn’t be a problem. When someone drinks from a Starbucks cup and throws it away, it is a small space occupying a tiny trashcan. But, add every cup, per person, per store, and there are massive amounts of Starbucks cups taking up landfills every day. Starbucks cups, after all, currently can’t be recycled. But, seven stores in Manhattan are trying to change that. According to, 3 billion Starbucks coffee cups end up in landfills every year. Composting or recycling simply isn’t an option, because a thin polyethylene coating, the same layer that prevents liquid leakage, currently can’t go through either process in most areas. (For more information, see a past 1-800-RECYCLING article about plastics for a further explanation of types of unrecyclable plastics.) Starbucks may be small on a global scale, with around 1% of the global coffee market, yet it impressively influential, according to the GreenBizBlog story. Recently, Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) realized Starbucks’ power for helping to reduce the waste from 58 billion paper cups used in the United States every year. According to a November QSR story, “How Starbucks is Changing Packaging,” Starbucks has made a lofty goal to make 100% of its cups recyclable by 2012. The notable efforts towards sustainability started in 2006, when Starbucks introduced a paper cup that contained 10% post-consumer recycled fiber. The final step would be to get Starbucks cups certified for recycling into corrugated cardboard. According to QSR’s quoting of Annie White, the Director of the New York office of Global Green USA and CoRR, achieving such a feat would be a huge step forward for the company. “If food packaging like Starbucks cups can be recycled into corrugated cardboard, it can essentially get a free ride to the recycle mill and be a cost-neutral program,” she says. So, the heat is on to test the feasibility of this type of recycling. Pratt Industries in Staten Island, NY, agreed to be the test recycle mill, and started recycling cups in seven different Manhattan Starbucks locations. The goal is to start the program in at least 130 stores by the second quarter of 2011. For more news on CoRR’s role in helping other companies spread their sustainability as one of many efforts, see its site, which is quite uplifting as far as the effort being put into making sustainable business practices much more commonplace.