Starbucks Testing Recyclable Cups in the UK to Tackle Waste

Starbucks Testing Recyclable Cups in the UK to Tackle Waste
Green Living

The nearest Starbucks to me is nearly an hour away – which is strange, I know. The only time I darken the door of one is when I have to talk business, or I’m meeting a friend. I might purchase a cup of coffee from Starbucks 3 times a year.

My 3 cups don’t even represent a fraction of the 4 billion disposable cups that Starbucks goes through in a year. Yup, that’s right – 4 billion. Some 2.5 billion of those cups hold coffees sold in the UK. The cups are made of paper, but they’re rarely recycled or composted because they’re lined with plastic.

Now the world’s largest coffee chain is testing recyclable coffee cups in the United Kingdom.

Made by Frugalpac, the recyclable cups are made of 100% recycled, chemical-free paper lined with a plastic film that standard recycling facilities can easily remove. The cups can be recycled up to 7 times, and can be placed in any newspaper or cardboard recycling bin.

A Starbucks spokesman said:

“We are very interested in finding out more about the Frugalpac cup and we will be testing it to see if it meets our standards for safety and quality, with a view to trialing its recyclability.” [1]

It was revealed earlier this year that just 1 in 400 cups from coffee chains in the UK are ever recycled. This has led lawmakers to mull the idea of a ban or tax on disposable coffee cups, though both were ultimately rejected.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a British chef and environmental activist, is at the helm of a campaign which led to the creation of an industry group called the Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group. Starbucks, McDonald’s, and dozens of other chains have signed “a pledge to significantly increase paper cup recycling rates by 2020.”

Better yet, the creator of the cups, Martin Myerscough, is also in talks with supermarkets about carrying the cups, which will be manufactured in the UK as their standard product. He said:

“We’ve spent the last two years developing our cup and we hope now that coffee chains and cup producers will see Frugalpac as an answer to this issue.” [2]

Starbucks explained in a 2014 statement that implementing a successful recycling program at its 24,000 establishments is a tougher endeavor than many people realize:

“Recycling seems like a simple, straightforward initiative but it’s actually quite challenging. Our customers’ ability to recycle our cups, whether at home, at work, in public spaces or in our stores, is dependent upon multiple factors, including local government policies and access to recycling markets such as paper mills and plastic processors.

Some communities readily recycle our paper and plastic cups, but with operations in 70 countries, Starbucks faces a patchwork of recycling infrastructure and market conditions. Additionally, in many of our stores landlords control the waste collection and decide whether or not they want to provide recycling. These challenges require recycling programs be customized to each store and market and may limit our ability to offer recycling in some stores.

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, and even adjacent businesses all have to work together to keep recyclable materials out of the landfill and non-recyclable materials out of recycling bins.” [1]


In a perfect world, everyone would just bring their own mug. But in a world where convenience seems by many to be valued overall, it certainly is a positive step forward.


[1] EcoWatch

[2] The Guardian