Starbucks Announces Plan to Develop Compostable Coffee Cups

The Seattle based coffee chain announced their commitment to developing a 100% recyclable, compostable coffee cup with closed loop partners. The announcement comes at a time when Starbucks is responsible for 6 billion of the 600 billion paper and plastic cups distributed globally each year. While Starbucks only makes up 1% of this statistic, their current hot beverage cups take 20 years to decompose due to the plastic lining that keeps the drink warm. In a press release, Starbucks boasted that the popular coffee company is “not leaving the problem-solving to others.” According to Vice-President of Starbucks Global Social Impact Overseeing Sustainability, Colleen Chapman, the company has a “three year ambition” to develop the cup.

The coffee corporation is offering a $10 million partnership with Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy for the NextGen Cup Challenge. The challenge offers competitive innovation as the consortium has pledged to award accelerator grants to entrepreneurs with ideas on how to develop a compostable coffee cup.

As explained in the press release, this is more than a Starbucks issue-- it’s a global issue. Compostable cups are useless to the environment if the communities using them do not have the appropriate recycling facilities.  Lynn M. Dyer, president of Foodservice Packaging Institute expands on the issue: “The truth is no cup is recyclable until it is widely accepted by communities, recycling facilities, and paper mills. We have been fortunate to have Starbucks engagement and partnership in working on this challenge, and we look forward to continued collaboration towards a truly recyclable cup.” Starbucks is currently working on developing a plant-based liner for the coffee cups, making it easier for current recycling and composting facilities to process the cups.

This isn’t Starbucks first push for environmentally friendly packaging and it won’t be their last. Most recently, Starbucks introduced special straw-less lids for the nitro cold brew drinks. In the future, Starbucks sees the plant based cup lining technology applying to the production of greener straws.

Starbucks’s NextGen Cup Challenge offers a chance for entrepreneurship and presents strides to less waste in our oceans.


Alana Bannan