Starbucks invests $10mn to develop recyclable, compostable coffee cup
In an age or automation, robotics and blockchain, Starbucks is hoping to revolutionise a seemingly low-tech product — the coffee cup.
Working alongside environmental organisations such as Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy, the coffee giant is committing $10mn to launch the 'NextGen Cup challenge'.
The aim of the initiative is to provide grants to help entrepreneurs create a fully recyclable, compostable cup that could be brought to the market within three years.
"We want to make sure this technology is available to everyone because it’s the right thing to do,” said Andy Corlett, director of packaging R&D for Starbucks.
“The idea of environmental sustainability in packaging is not just a Starbucks issue. It’s a global issue. Anything that gets us closer to that goal is not something we want to keep to ourselves.”
- Jumeirah Restaurant Group is to go entirely plastic-free
- Starbucks trials 5p cup charge in bid to tackle plastic waste
- Starbucks, PepsiCo and Mars Inc among world's most ethical companies in 2018
Each year, an estimated 600bn paper and plastic cups are used globally, with Starbucks accounting for around 1% of these, says the company.
Therefore, the US-firm is keen to make a sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternative.
“No one is satisfied with the incremental industry progress made to date, it’s just not moving fast enough,” said Colleen Chapman, vice president of Starbucks global social impact overseeing sustainability.
“So today, we are declaring a moon shot for sustainability to work together as an industry to bring a fully recyclable and compostable cup to the market, with a three-year ambition.”
Many consumers today may believe that the industry's paper cups can be easily recycled.
However, disposable coffee cups often have a thin plastic lining to make them watertight and the paper is often contaminated by coffee or tea, making them often difficult to recycle.
Starbucks cups are currently made with 10% post-consumer recycled fibre. To encourage consumers to use recyclable cups, the company is currently trialling a 5p levy for paper cups in London to see if this influences consumer behaviour.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.