Starbucks customers go through about 4 billion to-go cups every year — and almost all of those end up in a landfill. While it would seem the paper cups could easily be recycled, they are lined with non-recyclable plastic to help keep your coffee warm and the cup from leaking.
But the Seattle-based coffee giant is finally taking steps to make the world a little greener. They’ve teamed with Closed Loop Partners, a group that invests in recycling technologies and sustainable goods, to create the NextGen Cup Challenge.
The challenge will offer $10 million in grants to innovative entrepreneurs “working on ideas that could lead to the development of more sustainable cup solutions.”
Current cups are made with 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber, so depending on where you live, they might be partially recyclable, but the goal is to create a fully recyclable and even compostable cup no matter what corner of the country, or globe, you enjoy your Starbucks.
Starbucks previously dabbled with other sustainability projects. Last summer they unveiled a new lid for their Nitro Cold Brew product in an effort to eliminate straws — Americans use more than 500 million straws every day, according to the National Park Service.
Starbucks’ internal R&D teams will also participate in tackling the cup problem. Currently, they are testing out a new bio-liner made of plant-based materials. The liner will go through internal testing to determine whether the new liner can hold up to the stringent safety requirements and quality standards required of a vessel that holds hot liquids.
Rebecca Zimmer, director of global environmental impact at Starbucks commented in a press release, “Developing a plant-based liner that stands up to hot liquids and is commercially viable is incredible hard, but we believe the solution is out there.”