Starbucks Commits $10M to Find a Recyclable Single-Use Coffee Cup
In an effort to combat pollution worldwide, Starbucks has announced that it is committing $10 million in partnership with Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge. The purpose of the venture will be to design and develop a fully recyclable and compostable cup for use in Starbucks’ 28,000 global locations.
Each year, 600 billion paper and plastic cups are distributed globally, and despite reportedly accounting for only 1 percent of this total, Starbucks has decided to take initiative with the hope that other corporations will follow suit.
Colleen Chapman, vice president of Starbucks global social impact overseeing sustainability, gave a statement outlining the reasons the company decided to undertake the NextGen Cup Challenge.
“Our store partners proudly pour sustainably sourced coffee in our 28,000 locations around the world, but everyone wants to take our ability to serve it sustainably to the next level,” she said. “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.”
The initiative has already seen support from the World Wildlife Fund’s Cascading Materials Vision. While support, recognition and funding will certainly help, according to Lynn M. Dyer, president of Foodservice Packaging Institute, there are unique challenges such a project is sure to face.
"Starbucks is a leader in the ongoing work to make a recyclable paper cup a reality. However, this takes a great deal of time and effort, and certainly not something that can be done alone or by simply designing a new cup," she explained. “The truth is no cup is recyclable until it is widely accepted by communities, recycling facilities and paper mills. We have been fortunate to have Starbucks engagement and partnership in working on this challenge, and we look forward to continued collaboration towards a truly recyclable cup.”
While the initiative could take a while to find an adequate solution to worldwide cup waste, it is likely that other corporations will follow suit, hopefully accelerating the process. In February, Dunkin Donuts announced that it will be phasing out its Styrofoam cups by 2020, and if this is any indication, it points to an industry-wide acceptance of the need to reduce dependence on materials that contribute to global pollution. Change may move slowly, but it looks like that movement is headed in the right direction, for all of our sakes.
Related story: Coming Soon: Single-Use Coffee Cup Fees?