Maybe we are not a big fan of Starbucks who frequently drop by in, but now and then throughout the past year or so, we realized that the trash receptacle in our local Starbucks had been separated into two receptacles.

Working At Starbucks
Photo by Ben White / Unsplash

One is meant for recyclable items, consisting of coffee cups, the rest is meant for all other trash. We've been inquisitive about the coffee cups being counted as the recycling side. We happen to think they weren’t simple to recycle due to the plastic coating that prevents the liquid from seeping through.

Technically, it’s bound to be possible. According to Fast Company, Starbucks recently confirmed it by recycling 25 million disused Starbucks cups. The cups were "excess inventory" that would normally have been committed to the landfill.

The 25 million unused cups were part of a pilot program aimed at showing that coffee cups can be recycled back into coffee cups. The cups were committed to a recycling mill in Wisconsin that split the plastic lining from the cardboard and turned the cardboard pulp into sheets.

Those sheets were moved to a packaging company that turned the sheets into paperboard. After that, there’s a third company printed the Starbucks logo onto the board and turned them into new cups.

The point of this was to demonstrate to the industry at large that it's not difficult nor expensive to recycle these cups. It's no more expensive to recycle the cups than it is to recycle paper”, according to Fast Company. And irrespective of new or unused cups.

However, the problem is, how to make sure that coffee cups are going to get recycled in individual communities, so we are not sure what happens to the paper cups from my local Starbucks' recycling efforts.

Always, Together
Photo by Takahiro Sakamoto / Unsplash

This loop isn't closed

So now that Starbucks has proven these cups can be easily recycled, we can stop dragging our reusable travel mugs to Starbucks and other coffee houses, right? Not that fast.

Just because they can be easily recycled, doesn't mean they are easily recycled. The problem is that many civic recycling centers aren't meant for recycling them. There’s also a useful thing to keep in mind, the pilot program was not meant to persuade consumers to recycle their disposable cups; it was meant to convince recycling centers to accept those cups.

So, what's happening to them?

Maybe most of us are afraid that they're being sent to the landfill. Moreover, the bin will be causing customers to give up bringing reusable travel mugs because they misconceive that their disposable cups are being recycled.