Day 24: Nov. 18th, 2009

March 4, 2010

Another sunny day in Chicago! I just don’t know what to do with myself!

The next day I arrived to find an empty inbox. Ug! I had sent out a gizzillion emails and gone as far as I could go with my recycling initiative until I knew the status of our “test.” Four weeks all of a sudden felt like a life time…

I scrolled through my emails to see if there was anything I had forgotten to follow up on. And then it hit me: my phone-interview with the Environmental Director of Starbucks about the launch of his cup-recycling program. Below is the editorial about this initiative, which got me interested in talking with the Environmental Director responsible for its implementation:

NY Starbucks stores launch cup-recycling program

Posted by Anne Marie Mohan, Managing Editor,, September 10, 2009 |

Seven Starbucks stores in Manhattan have launched a cup-recycling program in cooperation with Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CORR). The pilot will test the collection and recycling of coffee cups when combined with old corrugated cardboard (OCC), which CORR says is the most extensively recycled material in the U.S. The objective of the program is to develop a cost-effective mechanism to close the loop on paper packaging, reducing greenhouse gases and assisting municipalities in reaching their solid waste diversion goals.

Starbucks participation in the pilot is an extension of the company’s efforts to develop a comprehensive recyclable cup solution by 2012. While Starbucks paper coffee cups can be recycled and composted in some communities, most commercial and residential services are not currently able to process this form of packaging. “In addition to the cup design, it’s critical that we address the full product life cycle—including the recycling collection infrastructure,” says Jim Hanna, Starbucks director of Environmental Impact. “Any enduring solution will require collaboration with stakeholders across the value chain.”

For the pilot, Western Michigan University’s Coating and Recycling Pilot plants tested a representative sample of the cups used in Starbucks stores and certified them as OCC-E, offering equivalent recyclability and repulpability as old corrugated cardboard using the Fibre Box Association’s Wax Alternative Protocol.

Paper bag manufacturer Duro Bag is designing a special paper bin liner so cups can be collected and recycled along with the corrugated cardboard. The prototype bag will be tested as part of the trial. Action Carting, the largest commercial carter in New York City, is collecting the bags along with the corrugated cardboard.

Pratt Industries will recycle a trial run of the bags and their contents, testing them for their recyclability and repulpability compared to existing feedstock at the company’s mill on Staten Island. Pratt’s Sustainable Design Incubator provided design guidance for the pilot, which is being coordinated and monitored by Global Green USA. Results of the pilot will be available in November.

According to CoRR, every year, 58 billion paper cups are used in the U.S. at restaurants, events, and homes. If all paper cups in the U.S. were recycled, 645,000 tons of waste would be diverted from landfills each year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 million mtCO2e, equivalent to removing 450,000 passenger cars from the road.

Says CORR director Annie White, “The lessons learned from the cup recycling pilot can be applied to the recycling of hamburger, pizza, and French fry containers, and all sorts of other paper food packaging. If the initial pilot is successful, CORR will expand the pilot to encompass more packaging types and restaurants, furthering our objective of generating business value and closing the loop on packaging.”

According to James McDonald, director of Sustainability for International Paper, “As an active member of CORR, International Paper supplied cups to Western Michigan University for recyclability testing and subsequent approval to the OCC-E protocol. Our participation not only supports this important pilot, it also furthers International Paper’s goals of providing responsible sustainable packaging for our customers.”

The foodservice packaging recycling project is but one of several of Global Green USA’s CORR projects dedicated to generating business value through creating a sustainable, zero waste New York City. In March, CORR launched an initiative with the Hunts Point Distribution Center in New York City, the world’s largest food DC, to substitute all of its nonrecyclable transfer packaging with recyclable packaging.

To visit this article on

Robert Carlson with the CA EPA had suggested I contact the Environmental Director of Starbucks after I had introduced my recycling initiative that looks to find an end-of-life market for thermoformed packages post-consumer to him. I was honored when the Environmental Director agreed to talk with me in October. I had not yet been able to get my interview, even though I was just as determined.

I sent the Environmental Director of Starbucks the following “reminder” email:


Sorry to be a bother but I just wanted to reaffirm my interest in chatting with you about the status of the pilot recycling intiative for Starbucks coffee cups in several NY Starbucks’ stores. I am trying to find an end of life market for our RPET plastic packaging (clamshells, blisters, trays, etc. [non-food]) either within the existing PET bottle recycling infastrucitre or by creating a new end market for mixed rigid plastic packaging. It seems as though buyers of baled PET don’t want plastic packages in it for fear of PVC contamination or the introduction of other contaminates. I was curious how buyers of baled corrugate were handling the introduction of a new material (Starbucks coffee cups) because I feel as though it is a similar situation with persuading buyers of baled PET that RPET clamshells will not contaminate the feedstock.

Please let me know when I can catch you in the office.



Tune in tomorrow for Robert Carlson’s (with the CA EPA) response to the “what’s new with me” email. It is jam-packed with goodness!

One Response to “Day 24: Nov. 18th, 2009”

  1. kelsey slavin said

    ur just like Julie from the movie julie and julia! u go gurllll!

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