Plastic Cup Reduces Paper Waste at Landfills

A major retailer is offering reusable plastic as a way to reduce paper waste.

Starbucks, the large coffee chain, now has reusable plastic cups that customers can purchase along with their grande half-caf, double pump soy latte. Made out of 100% virgin polypropylene (PP), the plastic cups — in 12- and 16-oz sizes (tall and grande, respectfully, if you speak Starbucks) — are expected to help reduce 4 billion disposable (and used) cups annually taken to landfills.

plastic cupThe paper cups used to serve the drinks at the store have an interior coating that makes them difficult to recycle, reports Plastics Today. With the new plastic cups, now customers at Starbucks won’t have to put the paper ones into the landfill bin.

“The exciting thing about PP is that it’s one of the most versatile resins out there,” says Jim Hanna, director of environmental impact for the company. “From cradle-to-cradle, PP offers one of the best environmental stories; it’s just a winner all around.”

The company first tested the reusable cups in more than 600 stores in the Pacific Northwest. Customers began using the plastic cups 26% more than they did the year before. The company hopes that by 2015, 5% of its cups is reusable.

In a survey of 1,000 people, 28% of respondents said they had already bought or planned to buy a $1 plastic cup. Seven out of 10 respondents thought the idea of a plastic, reusable cup was a good idea, no matter if they were planning on buying one. Still, 57% of respondents in the survey said that they probably or definitively would not buy a plastic cup.

One consumer, who also works at Starbucks, likes how the cups are a sustainable alternative, reports Central Michigan Life (article no longer available online). “I think it’s a great idea to use the (reusable) cups because we go through hundres (of paper ones) a day,” says Alyson Koch, a Starbucks employee and student at Central Michigan University. “And using a resusable cup could greatly reduce the paper products we go through.”

The Environmental Action Association, a nonprofit organization that supports a sustainable environment, says that a typical paper cup, even if it is made with recyclable elements, still go to landfills because they are made to be disposable. “Although more coffee companies are going green and serve their products in biodegradable cups, those are all disposable containers,” the organization says. “The resources required to make those cups are considerable — the environmental consequences can be quite staggering.”

Source: “Will baristas begin asking, ‘Paper or plastic?’” Plastics Today, 1/14/13
Image by public domain.