Sustainable coffee, served sustainably

Sustainable coffee, served sustainably

March 22, 2019
Marcia González

Starbucks to test recyclable, compostable cups

American coffee company and coffeehouse chain Starbucks has provided an update on a series of sustainability initiatives at its recent annual general meeting that will put smiles on the faces of many who have been critical of restaurant chains in particular and their plastic footprints.

“It was at our shareholders meeting one year ago that we launched multi-year initiatives around greener cups and digitally traceable coffee,” said Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of Starbucks. “Today, thanks to many valuable collaborations, we’re seeing significant, tangible progress toward a greener future.”

Over the next year in several markets worldwide, the company will trial new, greener cups. Starbucks customers in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver and London will help test a few different cups that will be both recyclable and compostable in those municipalities’ facilities. The company will choose the cup technologies from NextGen Cup Challenge winners that were announced earlier this month, working with expertise and support from the NextGen Consortium.

Starbucks initiated the Consortium last spring with Closed Loop Partners, and its mission includes identifying cup technologies that can be both recyclable and compostable on a global scale. In addition, the Consortium aims to leverage the scale of its members and industry experts. A year on, those members include not only Starbucks but another founding partner McDonald’s, along with supporting partners The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé, Yum! Brands, Wendy’s and advisory partner the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). They will all work with municipalities to increase acceptance of these new paper cups in recycling and composting programs by showing their value and ability to be recovered and diverted from landfills.

The Consortium’s work supports Starbucks’ many efforts to minimize its environmental footprint, which includes a goal made in 2016 to double the recycled content, recyclability and the reusability of its cups by 2022.

“We applaud Starbucks’ speed in committing to test NextGen winners that were identified less than a month ago, and the innovative collaboration at work here among so many global food and beverage companies,” enthused Kate Daly, executive director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “We look forward to continuing to build on this momentum, so that we can help recyclable and compostable options be the norm rather than the exception for to-go cups.”

Starbucks will roll out new lightweight, recyclable strawless lids to all stores in the USA and Canada in the next year. This is a key milestone as the company works to phase out plastic straws from its more than 30,000 stores worldwide by 2020, eliminating more than 1 billion straws a year – a goal that was announced in July 2018.

Newly redesigned, lightweight recyclable strawless lids will roll out this summer to Starbucks locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis and Toronto, while the rest of the USA and Canada will receive them by early 2020.

The new lids have 9% less plastic than the current lid and straw. Frappuccino drinks and other blended beverages will continue to have a different, domed lid made from recyclable plastic and will be accompanied by a straw, except where local law prohibits it. Starbucks is testing alternative material straws for blended beverages and is exploring some of this month’s winning NextGen technologies that could apply to straws. [Plastic straws will continue to be available upon request for Starbucks customers who need or request them.]

“We are pleased to see Starbucks exploring more ways to reduce its overall plastic footprint less than a year after first announcing its decision to phase out plastic straws,” said Susan Ruffo, managing director for international initiatives at Ocean Conservancy. “Redesigning products and packaging to be more sustainable is a long-term commitment, not a one-time decision, and Starbucks is clearly in for the long haul. We look forward to seeing how the company continues to do its part to fight ocean plastic and we hope others follow suit.”

“Starbucks is invested in developing solutions that seek to improve the sustainability of their products,” added Erin Simon, director of Sustainability R&D at WWF. “When companies begin to rethink their plastic footprint, innovation, research and measurement are the key elements needed to set them on a path toward continuous improvement.”

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019 will take place from Thursday 27 June to Friday 28 June, at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Frankfurt, Germany. To register for this highly focused and solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email

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