Starbucks tests (genuinely) recyclable coffee cup

Starbucks is "very interested" in the potential outcome of a new collaborative partnership with sustainable packaging company FrugalPac, which will see the coffee shop chain trial a recyclable coffee cup made from 100% paper.

One week before a new War on Waste series from TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which will target the recyclability of coffee cups, Starbucks has moved to introduce an answer to the problem of the 2.5bn coffee cups that fail to get recycled in the UK annually.

Starbucks will test the viability of cups developed by Frugalpac, which averts recyclability issues that arise when cups are lined with polyethylene (plastic) on the interior, by replacing the lining with a thin film that is specifically designed to separate from paper during the recycling process.

A Starbucks spokesmen 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 trialling its recyclability.”

The cup developed by Frugalpac can be recycled in normal paper mills and independent inspections from certification company Intertek has found that the cup’s carbon footprint is around half that of the traditional coffee cups on highstreets. When recycled the cup’s carbon footprint measures at 24.6g, which rises to 39.4g if sent to landfill.

Frugalpac claims that the cost-competitive cup “looks, feels and performs” like conventional models. The thin plastic liner, which acts as a way to waterproof the cup, is attached without chemicals with the top of the liner rolling over the lip of the cup.

“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,” Frugalpac’s chief executive Martin Myerscough said.

“The unique way we make our cups allows us to use recycled paper and not virgin cardboard from mature trees. It also means we don’t have to add waterproofing agents to the paper. Our cups are acceptable to all normal paper mills.

“We really hope that Frugalpac becomes the standard in the industry so people can get on with enjoying their coffee without worrying about what damage the cup does to the environment afterwards.”

Frugal Pac Cup from Frugal Pac on Vimeo.

Coffee-fuelled war

The recyclability concerns of paper cups came to light in March, when Fearnley-Whittingstall took to the streets of London in a “battle bus” to inform the public that just one in 400 cups were actually being recycled. The War on Waste series will continue – with a focus on coffee chains – on 28 July.

The fallout from this revelation has seen Starbucks offer a 50p discount on its drinks to consumers who bring their own cup, while Simply Cups – which recycles single-use paper cups for the likes of McDonald’s and Costa – has called on brands to overhaul their supply chains in order to find a solution.

Last month, the Paper Cup Manifesto was launched, aiming to significantly increase paper cup recovery and recycling rates by 2020. The manifesto has attracted more than 30 signatures including McDonald’s, Costa and Starbucks – which is also a member of the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG) from WRAP.

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Matt Mace

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