Starbucks coffee cups (and many other similar cups) cannot be recycled. They are made out of paper, but they are lined with plastic.
More than 8000 Starbucks cups go into the trash every single minute. Read that again. 8000 a minute.
That’s a lot of cups. It’s also a lot of trees; more than a million cut down annually to provide paper for the cups, none of which can be recycled because of the plastic lining.
The connections with climate change are immediately obvious. Trees are the first and foremost solution we have for climate change: more trees = more CO2 gets removed from the atmosphere. So if we lose trees, we reduce our ability to deal with the billions of tons of CO2 we are adding to the atmosphere every year.
In addition, there is the plastic on the cups. Plastic is a fossil fuel product. More plastic = more fossil fuels.
And finally, the waste. Landfills produce methane and CO2, both powerful greenhouse gases. A few landfills capture the methane to use a fuel, but most don’t. The more trash we put into landfills, the more greenhouse gases they produce.
Aside from the climate concerns, the environmental impact of 8000 cups into the trash is huge. Not only do those cups create plastic and paper waste in our land environment, inevitably some of the trash ends up in our oceans where, as we know, plastic is entering the food chain and killing sea creatures.
On July 9, 2016, Stand.earth activists erected a wall of 8,181 cups in front of Starbucks headquarters in Seattle to pressure Starbucks into doing more to create a fully recyclable cup.
Of course, you can help solve the problem yourself by always taking your own cup into Starbucks instead of using one of theirs.
For more information about Stand.earth’s project and about Starbucks cups, see this article in the Huffington Post.