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Recycling & Reducing Waste

We are committed to significantly reducing and diverting the waste our stores generate. Recycling is just one way we do this.


Recycling ChartAs one of many companies in the foodservice business, we continue our commitment to lead the entire industry toward greater access to recycling for cups and other packaging. Ultimately we want our cups to be recyclable in both material and practice, so that our customers have access to recycling services wherever they choose to dispose of their cups.

In 2008 we set a goal to implement front-of-store recycling for customers in all company-operated locations. Since that time Starbucks has implemented recycling in more than a dozen markets and established relationships with several municipalities to expand their acceptance of materials produced by Starbucks and the foodservice industry in local recycling systems.

2013 Report Update

Front of Store Recycling

To learn more about our work in implementing front-of-store recycling read our Global Responsibility Goals & Progress Report.

In 2013 39% of our company-operated stores in the United States and Canada were able to offer front-of-store recycling. Of these locations, 71% were able to recycle or compost the hot cup. While we added front-of-store recycling in more than 1,200 locations and continue to see a strong 90% acceptance rate for our cold cups, we saw a decline in overall acceptance of our hot cup due to limitations of recycling technology in several markets. To address this challenge, we are working with the Paper Recovery Alliance to address this shift and increase acceptance of our materials while tailoring our recycling program to accommodate varying regional requirements when possible.

When we set this goal in 2008, we envisioned front-of-store recycling as a single, universal solution. We now realize that this single approach does not fully address the individual and varied challenges faced in local markets across the entire Starbucks portfolio such as inconsistent public policy, limited market for the recycled end-products, lacking infrastructure and operational challenges. While we continue to work to increase the availability of front-of-store recycling where we can, we cannot do this work alone. Going forward we will explore new ways to lower our impact using more flexible solutions.

Back-of-store recycling is also a priority, with the majority of our in-store waste generated behind the counter. In 2013 80% (more than 3,200) of our company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada (where Starbucks is responsible for providing waste removal services) recycled cardboard boxes and other back-of-store items. Among our remaining locations, the majority were limited by operational impasses, such as minimal store space, lack of commercial recycling services or the landlords’ unwillingness to provide recycling services on-site.

Since most of our customers take their beverages to go, recyclability of our cups and other packaging is highly dependent on local government policies that promote or mandate recycling. We encourage our customers to find out if our packaging is recyclable in their neighborhoods at Earth 911 and to tell their local governments that making recycling available is a priority.

What We’re Doing Now

Recycling seems like a simple, straightforward initiative – but it’s actually quite challenging. Not only are there municipal barriers to successful recycling in many cities, but it takes significant changes in behavior to get it right.

A few non-recyclable items in a recycle bin can render the entire bag unrecyclable to the hauler. For recycling to be successful, local municipalities, landlords, customers, baristas, even adjacent businesses, all have to work together to keep recyclable materials out of the landfill, and non-recyclable materials out of recycling bins.

When looking at the waste generated at a Starbucks store – cardboard boxes, milk jugs, syrup bottles, aseptic cartons, and coffee grounds – most of it can be found behind the counter or in the backroom. That means, even though many of our stores recycle these items, our customers typically don’t see our recycling efforts in action.

While our efforts to recycle materials in the back of our stores and to bring front-of-store recycling to new markets have been effective in many areas, our success is continually dependent upon external circumstances, such as the comprehensiveness of commercial recycling services, aligning with recyclers and landlords, and finding adequate exterior space for containers. While our policy is that our stores will recycle where space and services are available, execution often presents challenges.

Most of our stores are located in shared spaces like malls, where it is often the landlord who controls waste collection and recycling, not Starbucks. In these cases we attempt to work with the landlord to find a solution that will enable recycling in our stores, and often that requires bringing recycling services to the entire shopping center which can certainly be challenging. Commercial recycling services are often less robust than residential recycling, and sometimes may not be available – that means the items our customers are used to recycling at home may not be accepted at businesses like ours because the recyclers won’t take them. And because different commercial recyclers accept different materials, we’re not able to provide a consistent program from store to store. In order to accommodate all of the different variations we encounter, we have created over 50 different versions of our recycling can lid to help customers determine what they can compost or recycle in each store.

In spite of these challenges, we are focused on working with others to make recycling easier for us and our customers.

How You Can Help

How you can help - use a tumbler

Reduce Waste and Save Money. Save 10¢ and a paper cup each time you use a reusable tumbler! You can find them in our stores or online.

Use the Right Can Every Time

The recycling receptacles in our stores are all marked with lists and icons of the materials they’re intended for, like paper cups, plastic lids, food waste and more. Scan the tops of the cans before you toss to make sure you’re putting waste in the right place.