Managing the environmental impacts of our business requires collaboration, innovation, and ongoing improvements. We have made substantial progress to reduce the impact of wastes generated in our stores through improved packaging design guidelines, offering reusable cups, advocating for local recycling infrastructure and expanding our customer-facing and behind-the-counter recycling practices.
Recycling seems like a simple, straightforward initiative but it’s actually quite challenging. Our customers’ ability to recycle our cups, whether at home, at work, in public spaces or in our stores, is dependent upon multiple factors, including local government policies and access to recycling markets such as paper mills and plastic processors.
Some communities readily recycle our paper and plastic cups, but with operations in 66 countries, Starbucks faces a patchwork of recycling infrastructure and market conditions. Additionally, in many of our stores landlords control the waste collection and decide whether or not they want to provide recycling. These challenges require recycling programs be customized to each store and market and may limit our ability to offer recycling in some stores.
Not only are there municipal barriers to successful recycling in many cities, but it takes significant changes in behavior to get it right. A few non-recyclable items in a recycle bin can render the entire bag unrecyclable to the hauler. For recycling to be successful, local municipalities, landlords, customers, baristas, and even adjacent businesses all have to work together to keep recyclable materials out of the landfill and non-recyclable materials out of recycling bins.
When looking at the waste generated at a Starbucks store – cardboard boxes, milk jugs, syrup bottles, juice cartons, coffee grounds, and waste from our customers – most of it is generated behind the counter or in the backroom. That means that even though many of our stores recycle these items, our customers typically don’t see these recycling efforts in action.
We have proven that our used cups can be accepted as a valuable raw material in a variety of recycling systems and are working with non-governmental organizations, policy makers, competitors, industry associations and others to bring solutions to scale and tackle common challenges. For example, we are working with companies and organizations along the value chain as a member of the Food Packaging Institute’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group. Ultimately we want our packaging to be recyclable in both material and practice, so that our customers have access to recycling services wherever they choose to dispose of their waste.
Reducing Waste: Packaging and Reusable Cups
As one of many companies in the food service business, we continue our commitment to lead the industry toward greater access to recycling for cups and other packaging—including driving demand for recycled materials. A key milestone came in 2006, when we began offering a cup with 10% post-consumer recycled paper fiber in North America, after helping develop the technology and leading the industry to gain approval for using recycled fiber for food packaging. We also include 50% post-consumer, recycled PET (rPET) in our cold cups used in European markets, and 15% rPET in our Bistro boxes in the US.
Reusable cups are also an important component of our overall waste reduction strategy. Since 1985 we’ve rewarded our customers with a discount when they bring in personal tumblers. In 2013 we launched a $1 reusable cup in the U.S. and Canada, and a £1cup in the United Kingdom. Despite these efforts, we have learned that widespread behavior change is unlikely to be driven by one company alone. We will continue to explore new ways to reduce our cup waste but ultimately it will be our customers who control whether or not we achieve continued growth in the number of beverages served in reusable cups.
Beyond our Stores
While our stores account for the majority of our direct environmental footprint, we are also working to improve performance in our manufacturing facilities. In 2014, our York, Pennsylvania, roasting plant and distribution center was certified as 100% Landfill Diversion by Underwriters Laboratories.