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[greenyes] Re: Starbucks Follow-up Comments

Doug Koplow asks about postconsumer recycled content in frozen food
packaging. I don't have all the specifics on that but, based on interviews
we've done over the past year with all the paper mills west of the Rockies,
I think there is a fair amount of recycled content in some types of
paperboard products such as cereal boxes, six-pack carriers, detergent boxes
and others of that kind. However, we found much less likelihood that
packaging such as frozen food boxes would have recycled content, and when it
did, it was virtually always pre-consumer.

Eric Lombardi asks about whether the Starbucks cups are recyclable,
compostable or neither, and I don't know specifically. I doubt they are
recyclable because they have liquids in them. I would think they'd be
compostable. But I think this would be no different from the options
available for the previous cups.

Terry Brennan points out that cups have a poly coating, so why would contact
with food be an issue. But it still would be an issue because people put the
cups to their mouth (poly may not be on the whole cup), and if the cups tear
they are in contact with the "food." Also, the recycled content needs to
hold up to the heat and liquid irrespective of the food contact issue.
Looking forward to what Terry learns from Ben.

I don't know enough about PLA specifically to comment on its recyclability,
but I have heard a lot from paper industry people about problems with
plastics in the deinking and recycling systems. To make things more
complicated, the difficulties with plastics vary by type of mill, and even
by specific mill. For example, the fiber purchaser at a newsprint mill told
me their system can get the plastics out so they're not as burdened by them
as some other mills are. However, the manager of a paperboard mill (at which
the newsprint mill's system would not work) said their biggest problem is
styrofoam, which floats in the mid-section of the water in their pulper and
can slip through every type of the extensive screening that they use,
resulting in pinholes in their endproduct, which is made into grocery dry
food boxes. So it appears there's not a one-size-fits-all answer. We'll
start asking about PLA in our talks with mill people and let you know what
we find out.

Terry also mentions recyclability issues varying with printing choices. We
know of several mills that love to get de-poly-ed milk carton-type stock,
but only if it's preconsumer. It also hasn't yet been printed on, but that
may not be a requirement. Some mills tried using postconsumer milk cartons
and had disasters with them because of the residual milk (especially
chocolate!). While the frozen food carton might have great fiber in it,
there's still a question of whether the mill can handle the plastic coating,
whether or not it's printed on, and I think that may vary by type of mill.


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 -,

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