Starbucks Is Testing Fully Compostable Cups in Five Cities
Starbucks is pilot testing environmentally friendly cups that look and feel just like the company's normal cups, but the plastic lining has been replaced with a compostable liner, making the cups recyclable and compostable, according to CNN.
The coffee giant is introducing the cups in five major markets: New York, San Francisco, Seattle, London and Vancouver. The shift in lining means the cups can be thrown into an industrial composter, as CNN reported.
Finding its way to sustainability has been a rough road for Starbucks. The company found success in purchasing enough renewable energy to power stores in the U.S. and Canada. However, when it comes to improving its ubiquitous cups, the company has come up short. A goal to serve 25 percent of its drinks in reusable cups by 2015 was scaled back. By 2018, only 2 percent of the company's drinks were in reusable cups, according to The Verge.
The new cups are part of the NextGen Cup Challenge – an open-sourced, global innovation challenge to redesign the fiber to-go cup and create a widely recyclable and/or compostable cup, according to Starbucks. The company considered 12 different prototypes before it chose to go with the BioPBS liner. The new liner is made from a renewable material, which is melted and spread on to the paperboard before it is used for the new cups, as The Verge reported.
The maneuver to more sustainable cups is part of Starbucks' plan to reduce waste by 50 percent over the next decade. The move coincides with the company's decision not to allow customers to bring in their own reusable cups over Covid-19 fears, as Yahoo News reported. However, in locations where customers receive a discount for using their own cup, they will continue to get it – but their drinks will be in a disposable cup.
Starbucks is testing the new cups over the next four weeks and looking for feedback from customers and baristas. "Customers will not see any noticeable difference from the current cup," the company said in a statement discussing the test, as CNN reported.
"It is with great intention that we move forward with highly collaborative and innovative work to bring both recyclable and compostable cups to scale around the world," Chief Executive Kevin Johnson said in March 2019 when the winner of the NextGen Cup Challenge was announced, as Yahoo News reported.
"We are reimagining the future for Starbucks, and for the more than 30,000 communities we serve each day, with a great sense of responsibility for a more sustainable planet," he said.
Finding its way to a greener cup has proven elusive since plastic-lined cups are cheap, light, stackable and excellent at keeping liquids from seeping out. While they are technically recyclable, few facilities actually have the ability to separate the lining from the cups. So the cups just get tossed out, as CNN reported.
The new compostable cups still have the same problem as the recyclable ones where the lining has to be separated from the cup, which is why it is being tested in cities that have processing facilities to do so, according to CNN.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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