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Starbucks coffee cup

The company has made an impressive commitment to recycle all post-consumer paper (hot) and plastic (cold) beverage cups left in its stores by 2015, including finding markets where these materials will be recycled.

It's also encouraging that the 3 billion paper coffee cups it sells in the U.S. market annually contain 10% recycled fiber content.

We filed a shareholder resolution in 2011 asking the company to broaden its recycling commitment, which recieved 8.1% support from shareholders. Senior Program Director Conrad MacKerron presented the proposal at the meeting in March of 2011. His blog post leading up to the vote was published on Triple Pundit. Read the Seattle Times article about the shareholder meeting here or the investor fact sheet As You Sow distributed here.

Following additional talks, we believe the company is making additional serious efforts to address some of the concerns below and so we did not file a proposal for 2012.

We support the company's pioneering efforts to find recycling markets for all plastic and paper cups left in its stores and to work with its suppliers and brand peers to expand container recycling opportunities.

That said, we will continue to engage the company to improve its current polities:

  • Starbucks' Policies Are Not Comprehensive: It has not set recycled content goals for glass (Frappucino), plastic (Ethos water) or metal (Doubleshot) beverage containers. It has not set recovery goals for glass, plastic, or metal beverage containers.

  • Existing Commitment Covers Just 18% of Stores Serving Starbucks Coffee: The commitment to offer paper and plastic cup recycling owned and operated locations is welcome and significant but covers only a fraction of total company operations.

  • Company Not Counting How Many Customers Use Reusable Tumblers and Mugs On-Site: Starbucks says it encourages customers to choose reusable beverage containers as a way to reduce paper cup usage. However, the company is not counting how many customers actually choose to drink beverages from glasses and mugs consumed in its stores. The company has informed us that it is working on a new approach to solve this problem.

  • Impact of Ready-to-Drink Beverages Minimized: The company says ready-to-drink beverages where we seek recovery goals comprise only 4% of sales. Yet Starbucks' CEO has said that selling ready-to-drink beverages in grocery stores is a key part of the company's future growth strategy meaning sales could increase dramatically.

Starbucks' Frappucino bottles and Doubleshot cans are widely sold in grocery and convenience stores nationwide. They are a significant part of the value, visibility and future growth of the brand.

The company needs to develop recycled content and container recovery goals as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé Waters have done.

Click here to learn about our current work on waste in consumer packaging>>

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