Starbucks pilots greener coffee cup that's recyclable and compostable 

Starbucks announced today it will pilot new greener to-go cups this year in Vancouver that will be both recyclable and compostable. 

Cup will launch in Vancouver this year, and lightweight recyclable strawless lid will launch in Toronto

Starbucks announced they are piloting a greener to-go cup in Vancouver beginning this year that will be both recyclable and compostable. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

Starbucks announced Wednesday it will pilot new greener to-go cups this year in Vancouver that will be both recyclable and compostable. 

Vancouver will join New York, San Francisco, Seattle and London to trial different cup options that will be chosen from the NextGen Cup Challenge winners that were announced earlier this month.

"We know how important this issue is to Canadians," said Michael Conway, executive vice president and president of Starbucks Canada in a media release. "We're committed to being a part of the solution. I'm excited and proud that our customers in Vancouver will be among the first to sip coffee from a greener to-go cup."

In addition to the greener cups, the coffee company will roll out new recyclable strawless lids to stores across North America beginning in Toronto. Customers may have already seen strawless lids at select locations but the new lid has been redesigned to be more lightweight.

This new lid will have nine per cent less plastic than the current lid and straw. Straws will continue to be available to customers upon request. 

Progress plans for both initiatives will be revealed at the company's annual shareholders meeting Wednesday. 

Making recycling to-go cups a reality

Starbucks initiated the NextGen Consortium managed by Closed Loop Partners last spring to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge — a challenge to redesign the paper to-go cup to make packaging more environmentally sustainable.

The 12  winners of the challenge were chosen at the end of last month. One of the categories of the competition was to create innovative cup liners so that coffee to-go cups can in fact be compostable and recyclable. 

"Directionally they're moving in the right spot. But it's easy to confuse consumers saying that this is good enough," Calvin Lakhan, a research scientist at York University said. "There's still a lot more room to grow."

Current coffee to-go cups are made with paper but are lined with polyethylene plastic or wax making them difficult to recycle in most jurisdictions.

Footprint is a sustainable packaging company in the U.S. and one of the 12 winners of the challenge. According to Starbucks who announced the winners on their website last month, Footprint "creates cups, lids and straws that are fully-formed fiber based solutions, with an aqueous-based coating that is recyclable and compostable." 

In addition to Starbucks, Mcdonalds is also one of the lead partners of the consortium including the Coca Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestle and Wendy's as supporting partners. The challenge is part of the consortium's $10 million commitment to advance food packaging design. 

Starbucks isn't the first company to announce changes to their cups in efforts to reduce its ecological footprint.

Tim Hortons announced last year that certain locations have begun piloting environmentally friendly lids that are also designed to prevent leaking.

Lakhan said companies and consumers should be looking at more reusable options. He suggests that instead of consumers buying a new cup every single day, they should bring a reusable cup.

Starbucks Canada currently offers customers a 10-cent discount to any customer who brings a reusable cup or tumbler to a company-owned store.

"If you can bring in your cups that's ten times better for the environment than buying something that has made a marginal change in its composition," Lakhan said. "Reuse should always be what we're aiming for when it comes to sustainable coffee."