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Starbucks Announces US$10 Million Plan That Could Vastly Alter Cup Packaging
By Yoon Sann Wong, 22 Mar 2018
Image via Nor Gal / Shutterstock.com
Starbucks isn’t letting McDonald’s have all the fun when it comes to reinventing its packaging to save the planet.
The coffee chain announced that it will be dedicating US$10 million in its partnership with Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy to launch the ‘NextGenCup Challenge’. The goal is to develop completely recyclable and compostable cup packaging to market. Colleen Chapman, Vice President of Starbucks global social impact that oversees sustainability, explained inside a press release:
“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.”
Starbucks’ paper cups are currently made using 10 percent post-consumer reprocessed fiber and can be recycled at select facilities with suitable infrastructure.
The ‘NextGenCup Challenge’ aims to spur progress by awarding accelerator grants to entrepreneurs working on sustainable cup solutions, as well as encourage greater industry involvement for developing a global solution.
What’s more, Starbucks and its partners intend to make these solutions open source throughout the development process so that more can benefit and contribute.
“The idea of environmental sustainability in packaging is not just a Starbucks issue. It’s a global issue. Anything that gets us closer to that goal is not something we want to keep to ourselves,” explained Andy Corlett, Starbucks’ Director of Packaging R&D.
Reinventing a fully eco-friendly paper cup is no walk in the park. Some major obstacles include using green materials whilst meeting stringent safety standards, as well as ensuring that the packaging can be processed at urban recycling and composting facilities.
The interior of Starbucks’ paper cups currently come coated by a thin layer that has to not only meet strict safety and quality standards, but also prevent leakage. While Starbucks continues to research into using bio-liners, which are partially made from plant-based materials, this time-consuming process does not always produce the results that the company hopes for.
“Developing a plant-based liner that stands up to hot liquids and is commercially viable is incredibly hard,” explained Rebecca Zimmer, director of global environmental impact.
“[B]ut we believe the solution is out there, not just for cups but for other exciting applications, like making straws greener, in the future.”
“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,” added Lynn M. Dyer, President of the Foodservice Packaging Institute.
Furthermore, different cities have varied regulations when it comes to recycling, and greater consistency in countrywide recycling policies is still severely lacking.
“The truth is no cup is recyclable until it is widely accepted by communities, recycling facilities and paper mills,” said Dyer.
If successful, fewer cups will find their way to landfills, which in turn could lead to the dwindling of massively polluted areas, such as this country-sized trash island that became an official nation with its own passport, currency, and citizens. There might also be less cases of severely polluted waters riddled with plastic—a heartbreaking sight that was captured in an underwater video shot in Bali, which went viral early this month.
[via Starbucks, main image via Nor Gal / Shutterstock.com]
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