[social_buttons] Do you get your java on the go? If so, what do you do with the paper cup once you’re finished? Throw it in the trash…recycle it…maybe you never gave it much thought. But did you know that 58 billion paper cups are used in the United States every year, and if all these paper cups were recycled, 645,000 tons of waste would be diverted from our landfills? We would be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 million mtCO2e (Metric Tonne Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) similar to removing 450,000 passenger cars from the road. It’s amazing to think that something so simple could have such a big impact. Well, it sounds simple but actually the reality is quite complicated.
Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) understands the complexity. Their mission is to help businesses increase profits by transforming waste into assets – ultimately, creating a win-win situation for business and the environment. However, CoRR can’t do it alone. It will take all stakeholders in the paper cup supply chain working in collaboration. And it all starts with one white, iconic coffee cup.
CoRR launched a recycling program at seven Starbucks stores in Manhattan. The pilot will test the collection and recycling of coffee cups when combined with old corrugated cardboard (OCC). OCC is the most extensively recycled material in the United States. The objective of the program is to develop a cost effective way to close the loop on paper packaging ultimately reducing greenhouse gases and helping municipalities reach their sold waste goals.
This program will help Starbucks move closer to its environmental goal of developing and launching a recyclable cup by 2012. What many folks don’t realize is that Starbucks paper coffee cups can be recycled or composted in some communities, but most commercial services are not currently able to process the cups.
I was extremely excited to see this pilot come to fruition, because I was fortunate enough to be involved in Starbucks “Cup Summit” earlier this year facilitated by Dr. Peter Senge, author of Learning for Sustainability and The Fifth Discipline. The goal of the Summit was to bring the stakeholders involved in the entire supply chain together to discuss the whole systems approach to designing and recycling a hot paper cup. The pilot program in New York is the next step in this complicated, multi-level process.
So let’s take a look at the different stakeholders and their involvement in the recycling program according to CoRR:
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.
Duro Bag, the largest paper bag manufacturer in the world, 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.
This pilot is a great example of an academic, private and public partnership. I look forward to seeing the results which will be available in November.
Photo: MyNameMattersNot on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.