At Issue: Can Paper Coffee Cups Be Recycled and Composted?
In most places, hot beverage cups cannot be recycled, and are not compostable, even though they’re made mostly of plain paper pulp. (Read to the next section to learn why)
Starbucks, one of the leading buyers (and sellers) of paper coffee cups, has come under strong fire for this fact. However, there is some hope that the cups, though not recyclable through traditional paper streams, may be processed through the same recycling channels that handle corrugated cardboard.
To explore these possibilities, in late 2009 and early 2010, Starbucks cooperated with the Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR, part of Global Green USA). They operated a study to address two elements of paper cup recycling: how well the cups are broken down in the cardboard recycling process, and how responsive and willing consumers are to sort their cups in the appropriate container.
This study may present hope that paper cup recycling will become more mainstream in the future.