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Starbucks Strives for the Greenest Cup in the World

Travel News — By Jennifer Pappas on June 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm
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When it comes to buying a cup of coffee, it’s a safe bet that everyone in the world recognizes one brand name. Apparently for Starbucks, however, world domination isn’t enough. Beginning in 2008, the company embarked on a tireless quest to create a 100-percent recyclable (or reusable) cup by the year 2015, revamping its reputation as a pioneer in sustainable marketing in the process. Yes, I have my facts straight; Matter Network reports that Starbucks is on the seven-year plan for the perfect cup.

In April, the company held its 2nd Annual Cup Summit, inviting paper manufacturers, raw material suppliers, academic experts and leaders in the recycling industry to discuss potential solutions. From the looks of it, Starbucks is taking a very Marxist approach to the cup as a commodity with a questionable lifespan. In other words, they aren’t out just to give the cup a green makeover. Starbucks wants to transform the materials used to make it, the process by which it’s manufactured and recycled, and the role you and I play every time we buy a cup of coffee.

This year’s Sustainable Brands conference, held last week in Monterey, was another opportunity for the caffeine kingpin to outline their grandiose efforts. In addition to the promise of a 100-percent recyclable/reusable cup by 2015, Starbucks also unrolled three new sub-goals: to complete a recyclable cup plan by 2012; to serve 25 percent of their drinks in tumblers or permanent cups; and to provide front-of-store recycling in each and every store owned by the company.

Other key points from the conference include:

City by City Recycling: Starbucks understands that waste habits and recycling rules vary from state to state and city to city. In that vein, the company is targeting the biggest, most influential cities first, hoping for a trickle-down effect of improved practices. San Francisco and Seattle are already on board with recyclable cups, with Manhattan close behind. Chicago, Boston and Atlanta are next on the list.

BYOC: Remember how up in arms people got when grocery stores threatened to start charging customers per plastic bag used to bag your groceries? Do you also remember how easy it’s become to bring your own reusable bag to the market? Starbucks is hoping to do to the cup what Trader Joe’s has done for the grocery bag. In short, they want us to start bringing our own. Incentives such as free cups of coffee to anyone bringing in their own tumbler have been used to try and jump start the new practice, but as of right now; the idea remains a foreign one to the majority of customers.

Statistics prove that progress has been made. Last year, Starbucks served 4.4 million more beverages in reusable cups compared to 2008. But will Starbucks be able to do it? Will they reach their ambitious 100-percent goal? Only the next five years will tell…

View a live chat with Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ head recycling expert and Peter Senge, a senior lecturer at MIT here.

[Photo: Flickr/Jeroen Bennink]

Tags: 2015, coffee, Monterey, recycling, Starbucks

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