This Coffee Cup Really Will Get Recycled

Green Your Cup coffee cup

Courtesy Green Your Cup

Green Your Cup coffee cup

Attention,
eco-minded coffee connoisseurs: If you bought your caffeine fix in a
disposable cup this morning, that cup probably won’t get recycled, even
if you dutifully chucked it into a green bin.
Starbucks (SBUX) manages to recycle only about 39 percent of the 4 billion cups it uses each year.

What
gives—it’s just paper, right? Not exactly. Coffee cups are coated in
plastic to keep them from leaking. That extra layer also makes them more
difficult to recycle, even though the technology exists to extract it.
Now, a U.K. inventor has developed a coffee cup with a plastic liner
that cleanly separates from its paper shell during the typical recycling
process.

Martin Myerscough says he originally considered redesigning the
yogurt cup, which is generally excluded from curbside collections.
“Then I thought, ‘What about coffee cups?’ Lo and behold, they don’t get
recycled either.” The reason is financial, Adam Minter
reports for Bloomberg View: For recyclers to justify the expense of removing
the plastic from cups, they need to receive many more paper cups, which
make up a small fraction of all the waste thrown into the recycling
pile.

Martin Myerscough

Generating
more paper refuse isn’t the answer, of course. Reusable mugs are good
in theory, but most consumers haven’t embraced them. And although paper
cups can be composted, they generate greenhouse gases as they break
down.

Myerscough’s creation, dubbed Green Your Cup,
could be a viable solution because it can be pooled with all other
paper products—such as magazines and newspapers—at the recycling plant,
where they’re all tossed into a vat of soapy water to remove inks,
staples, and plastic films. Myerscough says recyclers will have to be
trained to spot his recyclable product so that the cups can be
integrated into their operations.

He’s talking with various U.K.
coffee shops about carrying the cups, and to packaging manufacturers
about licensing the required machine, which he says can be tacked onto
existing production lines. Myerscough estimates that his cup will cost
about 10 percent more to make. That might be worth it to Starbucks,
which has a long way to go before reaching its goal of offering
recycling at all its stores by 2015.

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