Starbucks, U.K. Industry Groups Put Energy Into Better Paper Cups

Traditional paper cups, which often have plastic mixed in, can be very difficult to recycle. But thanks to a push from a British television personality, the U.K. food industry is trying to fix the problem, and Starbucks is testing a new cup that could be just what the industry needs.

If you’re living in or visiting the U.K., your next cup of joe from Starbucks could be more eco-friendly than usual.

The reason? Simple—it comes down to the cup, and you can partly thank the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG) for the inspiration. Last month, the company was one of the largest firms to sign onto the “Paper Cup Manifesto” (PDF), an effort by PCRRG and the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA), to ensure that companies across the food chain are producing cups that can be easily recycled.

Starbucks is also one of the first out of the gate with a solution to the problem. The coffee giant is working with entrepreneur Martin Myerscough to test out Frugalpac, a cup whose paper can easily be separated from the plastic when recycled. The Telegraph reports that Myerscough worked for two years to develop his solution.

“We think Frugalpac will make a huge contribution to the solution and we’re looking forward to working with the industry to make this happen,” Myerscough told the newspaper.

Starbucks, in a statement to The Guardian, emphasized it was still in testing mode but hoped the cup would come in handy.

“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 company said.

Starbucks and the industry groups took on their respective efforts, thanks in part to a campaign by celebrity chef and environmentalist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who rose to action after learning that less than one-quarter of 1 percent of all paper cups were recycled.

Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “War on Paper Cups” specifically put Starbucks and its largest U.K. competitor, Costa Coffee, on notice.

“The coffee companies are taking advantage of the public’s false confidence in their responsible actions” he said in March. “They are actively encouraging the misunderstanding, with claims and statements on their websites. And two biggest, Costa and Starbucks, seem to be the worst culprits.”

A joint press release by PCRRG and FPA specifically credited Fearnley-Whittingstall for starting the conversation, which is beginning to bear fruit.

“A lot has happened since March when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall first brought this issue to public attention. We have acknowledged the challenge and accepted that change needs to happen,” FPA Executive Director Martin Kersh emphasized in a statement this week. “Through the three cross-industry meetings held so far we have set the wheels in motion in order to make real progress and explored all the considerations, not least the requirement for consumer education about preserving the value of the used cup.”

(Krystian Olszanski/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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