Cup Summit 3
Starbucks held its third Cup Summit in Boston last week, gathering over 100 packaging industry leaders to discuss solutions for the recyclability of cups and other packaging. In addition to the meeting itself, there was a great 2011 Cup Summit webcast with expert representatives from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tim Horton’s, Georgia-Pacific and Action Carting Environmental Services.
The Summit was a great success, with everyone feeling like we made a lot of progress solving this difficult issue. We met in the incredible MIT Media Lab, hosted by Peter Senge, senior lecturer at MIT and founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning. Peter and his team helped the group focus on system solutions that consider the entire life of cups and packaging: sourcing of raw materials, use by our customers and final disposal.
“Over the past three years, we’ve learned that success has been a combination of forward-thinking partnerships along with innovative approaches to widespread challenges,” said Jim Hanna, Starbucks director of environmental impact. “By collaborating with key industry leaders – even competitors – we are better able to help reduce the global impact of packaging throughout the industry.”
“Recycling is a complex problem that will not be solved overnight; however, initiatives like Starbucks Cup Summit are moving the dialogue in the right direction,” said Peter. “The company’s holistic approach has the potential to make a significant impact on the entire foodservice industry.”
During the summit, representatives from paper mills, cup manufacturers, restaurant operators, recyclers and NGOs along with academic experts brainstormed recycling solutions. The key takeaways were that the cups are made of fiber that paper mills could recycle, but it’s critical that we collect enough cups to make it economical. One good point was made about volume – many of our cups leave our store with our customers, so the solution must include collection of these cups, which end up in homes or offices outside the store.
However, it’s important that we collect the cups in our stores as well. We’ve made a lot of progress toward our goal of having recycling in all our stores by 2015. We’ve implemented front-of-house recycling in stores in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Denver and Chicago, along with most provinces in Canada. In Chicago, we’re collecting the cups separately and sending them to a mill in Green Bay, WI to be made into the napkins we use in our stores. In many of the other markets our cups (both hot and cold) are being recycled into tissue, napkins and many other paper products. We’ve even run a trial to recycle cups back into cups at the mill that makes the recycled fiber we use in our hot cups, which are 10% post-consumer fiber.
Companies like ours can help encourage recycling by continuing to use recycled materials in our packaging. This will drive demand and make it economical for the recyclers to collect the cups, and it will provide paper mills with enough post-consumer fiber to make recycling cost effective. You can help by making sure your used cups are relatively clean (dump out any remaining liquids) and by putting them in appropriate recycling containers when you’re done. And always remember that the best cup is the one not used, so try to bring your own mug or use a ceramic or glass cup in the store.