Sea Change or PR Gimmick? Starbucks Tries Out Recyclable Cups in the UK

Few people know that Starbucks uses over 4 billion paper coffee cups per year and that those cups, made by clearcutting forests, are mostly not recycled. But the word is getting out and pressure is ramping up for the coffee giant to walk its talk on sustainability. Today's announcement indicates that Starbucks may finally be starting to change its ways.

Stand, which launched a campaign earlier this year calling on Starbucks to use recyclable paper cups instead of its current cups, is encouraged to see that the company will test out 'fully recyclable' cups in its UK stores. The announcement comes after intense pressure on the company over its wasteful practices in the UK.

Starbucks uses a coffee cup with a thin plastic liner that makes the cups waterproof, but that plastic clogs up recycling mills, which means that in almost all cases, they end up in the trash - even if customers put them in recycling bins. More than a million trees are cut each year to produce the Starbucks cups that quickly pile up in garbage cans - and then landfills - around the world.

In 2008 Starbucks made a public commitment to make its cups recyclable by 2012, then the company extended the deadline to 2015, but there has yet to be a change in the cups. Starbucks has repeatedly asserted that the problem is not its cups but the recycling process, which varies from location to location. The company has suggested that recycling machines and systems around the world should be changed to accommodate its plastic-lined cups. That exorbitant expense doesn't make a lot of sense. How about making a cup, which costs a few pennies, that regular paper recycling machines can accept? If the customer is always right, then Starbucks, one of the biggest customers, and consumers of paper cups in the world, can surely get its cup manufacturers to deliver a better, recyclable cup.

Anyone who grabbed a cup of coffee to go this morning knows full well Starbucks' ability to change our culture. The company has literally transformed the world's relationship to coffee, and we know it has the ability and the innovation to transform its paper cups. We will keep pushing until we see a commitment from the company to switch to fully recyclable cups worldwide.

Already, thousands of supporters have joined Stand's campaign demanding a #BetterCup. Last month, volunteers erected a massive wall in front of Starbucks' Seattle headquarters made of 8,181 cups, which is the amount of cups served every minute of every day by Starbucks.

To find out more about our Better Cup campaign and download a copy of our 'Supermermaid vs. Starbucks Monster' comic, visit