GreenYes Archives

[GreenYes Home] - [Thread Index] - [Date Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]

RE: [greenyes] Re: Starbucks Recycled Content Cups

All of the frozen food boxes I've seen are coated with polyethylene.

One interesting inconsistency in this type of packaging that affects
recyclability is the printing - in some cases it is on the paper, and in
some cases it is on the polyethylene. When I worked in paper, I was
taught that for most pure white fiber boxes, this can affect the
desirability to mills. For example, ice cream boxes and milk cartons
have traditionally been made with the printing on the polyethylene
liner. Since the container is made of bleached white pulp, once these
containers are pulped and the polyethylene (and print) is screened off,
what is left is a "pulp substitute" without need for de-inking or
bleaching. This is much more valuable to mills. If all these microwave
boxes were made this way, it might make them more recyclable.

Is this still accurate? Hopefully, Susan Kinsella or another current
paper specialist will correct me if I what I learned was incorrect or
has become outdated.

Terry S. Brennan
Integrated Waste Management Specialist
California Integrated Waste Management Board
phone (916) 341-6578
fax (916) 319-7474
e-mail tbrennan@no.address

Zero Waste - You make it happen!

-----Original Message-----
From: Doug Koplow [mailto:koplow@no.address]
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2004 7:02 AM
To: greenyes@no.address; seek@no.address
Subject: [greenyes] Re: Starbucks Recycled Content Cups


I've heard that recycled fiber is already used to a fairly high degree
in frozen food packaging, though have no specifics. Do you have any
idea about the post-consumer recycled content for that application? Are
there lessons for the cup application, or is the hot liquids issue
simply far more demanding than holding frozen food?


Doug Koplow
Earth Track, Inc.
2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02140
Tel: 617/661-4700
Fax: 617/354-0463

This message, and all attachments thereto, is for the designated
recipient only and may contain privileged, proprietary, or otherwise
private information. If you have received it in error, please notify
the sender immediately and delete the original. Any other use of the
email by you is prohibited.

>>> Susan Kinsella <seek@no.address> 11/19/04 01:25AM >>>
I see that Doug Koplow wrote a terrific response (no surprise) about the
subsidy issues, so I will respond instead to the cost and content issues
regarding paper recycling. First, I think the statement in question is
pretty glib - there is so much complexity involved that to say
"additional procedures to turn what is essentially trash into usable
paper products"
makes me wince. "Trash"??? How long have we been working to change this
mindset?! However, while I don't know all the specifics of the mills
involved in this deal, there are several factors that may create higher
prices for the recycled paper:

1) The deinking pulp mill providing the recycled pulp is the only one
so far certified to provide this level of FDA-approved pulp, so there is
a limited supply,

2) The deinking pulp mill is a stand-alone mill (which is true for much
of the high grade deinked pulp available in North America at this time).
Since it is not integrated into the papermaking mill, as most virgin
pulp mills are, its product both has to be shipped to the paper mill and
also adds another layer of commerce to the deal,

3) If the papermaking mill has a virgin pulp mill that otherwise
supplies all its fiber requirements, it will have to idle some of its
virgin pulping capacity to replace it with recycled pulp. Since this is
kraft pulp, that means that its virgin pulp is created by cooking down
the tree, with only about half resulting in papermaking fiber. The rest
of the tree material is sent off to another part of the mill to
co-generate energy. If the mill instead has to idle some of its virgin
pulping, it is also idling some of its co-generation capacity and then
must buy outside fuel.

These are economic issues that can be changed when recycling becomes
more integrated into paper mills. Starbucks' dedication to incorporating
recycled content into its cups is a great step towards that future.
There's no question that source reduction via reusable cups is the best,
but I'm not hopeful we're going to be getting there quickly. In the
meantime, as long as there are disposable cups, making them with as much
recycled content as possible is a good thing.

How much is possible? I don't think that anyone yet knows. We have been
told by at least one industry source that recycled fiber doesn't perform
well beyond 30% postconsumer when it is in constant contact with aqueous
I would think that a paper cup would need a high percentage of long
fibers for strength, much higher than for office paper; recycled content
is used to replace short fibers in paper, so that could limit it in this
type of product. Keep in mind that making a paper cup for hot liquids is
very demanding, with a lot of functionality and safety issues involved
as well as cost.

I don't think people should be disappointed with 10% postconsumer to
start with. Rather, I think we should celebrate that Starbucks has
pioneered recycled content in a product that had not had any before, and
that this commitment, even at this level, means a lot of deinked
recycled fiber will be used because of the number of cups involved.
Recycled printing and writing mills (which use this same kind of pulp)
have been closing over the past several years (more than a dozen since
2000) and have not been replaced because the paper industry has not seen
enough demand to convince them to re-invest or to shift the recycled
capacity to newer mills. A purchaser with the public profile and clout
of Starbucks can change that message, which is good for all of us who
care about recycling.

We still have a lot of work to do to build the recycled paper system. We
don't have the infrastructure to go from zero to 100 right away. As this
product is embraced by customers, environmentalists, recyclers, and
others, other cup manufacturers will be encouraged to follow and
possibly go further
- in postconsumer content, in types of products included, in technology
and research - and that should encourage more investment and development
of the necessary recycling infrastructure, which in turn will encourage
more incorporation of recycled content. That's how I think eventually
we'll get to a fully functioning recycling economy.

If, instead, everybody picks this step apart and says it's not good
enough - why would other cup-makers or purchasers follow suit? It takes
an enormous amount of work and coordination to set up the systems to
produce and distribute an advance like this. I say, let's applaud each
step - just make sure they keep going and call on the rest of the
industry to follow their lead.

Susan Kinsella

Susan Kinsella
Executive Director
100 Second Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone - 415/721-4230
Fax - 509/756-6987
E-mail - paper@no.address
Websites -,

[GreenYes Home] - [Date Index] - [Thread Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]