This summer Starbucks will complete the global rollout of its hot cup sleeves, called EarthSleeve™, which are made from less paper and more post-consumer content than Starbucks previous cup sleeves. Since Starbucks first rolled out EarthSleeve to the U.S. and Canada in 2012, the cup sleeves have saved 21 million pounds of fiber, which correlates to more than 188,000 trees. The sleeves are also both recyclable with cardboard and compostable in commercial systems.
“Up to 80 percent of our cups leave the store with our customers,” said Jim Hanna, who leads environmental sustainability for Starbucks. “Reducing the waste associated with our cup sleeves is one important way we can help mitigate the impact of our packaging.”
Starbucks history with the paper cup goes back to 1984, when the company began its transformation from a retailer of whole bean coffee, to a café environment with brewed coffee and espresso. In those early days of specialty coffee, most customers were accustomed to getting their coffee to-go from a convenience store or diner in polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups, and found that the beverage in paper cups could be too hot to hold. Consequently, double-cupping became commonplace.
By the mid-1990s, Starbucks began working with the Environmental Defense Fund to reduce the environmental impact of its paper cups. In 1997, Starbucks rolled out its first hot cup sleeves made from corrugated paper to serve as an insulating layer. The sleeve, made from 60 percent post-consumer recycled content and 45 percent lighter than the second cup, helped popularize the more environmental alternative to double-cupping in coffee shops around the world.
Starbucks continued to explore new materials for its packaging, and in 2006, launched the retail industry’s first hot beverage paper cup with 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber. The company also led groundbreaking efforts to bring industry leaders together to find solutions with Cup Summits in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and has demonstrated the recyclability of Starbucks cups with successful pilots recycling paper cups to napkins and cardboard.
In 2012, Starbucks turned its attention back to the cup sleeve, working with the manufacturer LBP to launch the EarthSleeve to Starbucks locations across the United States and Canada. Over the next two years, Starbucks expanded EarthSleeve cup sleeves to its stores in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Introduction to Starbucks China and Asia Pacific region began in April 2015 in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The remaining markets in the region will launch this summer.
In the China and Asia Pacific region, the EarthSleeve use 18 percent less paper than its predecessor, and the reduced weight also reduces transportation costs and environmental impact. Estimated savings on paper in the region per year is more than 600,000 pounds (276,000 kg).
“We will keep working to decrease the materials used in our packaging, and find new ways to encourage reusables and implement recycling solutions for our cups,” Hanna said. “This is one piece of the puzzle.”
* Data sourced from the using the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator.
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