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Are Starbucks Cups Recyclable?

are starbucks cups recyclable

Are you looking for a more environmentally-friendly way to enjoy your cup of Joe? 

Whether you prefer hot or iced coffee, it is usually served in a disposable cup. This container is only designed to be used once and gets tossed in the trash once you finish your drink. These days, most people are aware of the environmental issues associated with single-use plastic. While the drive to shun single-use straws has had a positive impact, there are still areas for improvement. 

So, let’s find out, ‘are Starbucks cups recyclable?’

About Starbucks Cups

Starbucks has a reputation for being an environmentally conscious company. A statement was recently made announcing the company’s goal of cutting its carbon footprint in half by 2030. However, billions of Starbucks drinks containers end up in incinerators or landfills each year. Let’s take a look at the disposable cups they use to see are Starbucks Cups Recyclable.

Cups for hot beverages

There is nothing better than a hot cup of coffee to kick-start your motor on a chilly day. The Starbucks cups feature a cardboard exterior but with a thin plastic lining. This is added to prevent the liquid contents from leaking through the cardboard.

This lining is made from plastic polythene and will not leach into your hot beverage. The catch is that this material is not usually accepted at recycling facilities. You need to search for a cycling center that accepts plastics rated three or higher. 

Cups for iced beverages

If you prefer to sit and sip on iced beverages, you will have noticed that they come in plastic containers. The good news is that these containers are made from type one or type two plastic. This means that they are easy to recycle and can be thrown in a regular recycling trash can. Even the lids of these containers can be recycled fairly easily.


Most of us grew up using plastic straws, and it can be a difficult habit to break. However, straws can be tricky to recycle, and they often end up in landfills and even find their way into the ocean. If you want to use a straw, it is best to take your own reusable straw when you go out.

These days, reusable straws are made from a wide range of materials. This includes stainless steel, bamboo, and even glass. If you enjoy the feeling of chewing on a straw, it is a good idea to check out silicone models. 


Because of the plastic lining, containers created for hot beverages are not compostable. After the cardboard exterior has broken down, the plastic liner will still remain. This liner could potentially leach toxic chemicals into your compost heap if disposed of in this way. 

The NextGen Cup Challenge

This innovative challenge was launched in 2018, and a number of major corporations were invited to take part. A Closed Loop Partners consortium was created with Starbucks, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Yum! Brands taking part. 

The goal of the competition was to crowdsource an eco-friendly cup that could be used globally. Several of the competitors proposed ideas for beverage containers that could be composed, recycled, or reused. However, none of the suggested ideas have been created and put into use as yet. 

The NextGen Cup Challenge

Recyclable Cups

Subway is currently in the process of testing fully recyclable cups for hot beverages. These new containers will not have a polyethylene coating. The tricky part is making sure that these cups do not leak, especially after they have been used for several minutes.

These recyclable cups were made available in some of the company’s locations in 2021. At the moment, they are still in the trial phase and have yet to be adopted globally. Subway is also partnering with different recycling facilities to improve the overall process. 

Reusable cups

Reusable personal cups were also introduced in all Starbucks locations throughout the United States in 2021. This makes it easy for customers to pick up a reusable cup and take it to the store counter. The barista will check if the container is clean before filling it with the ordered beverage.

Each time customers use one of these containers, they slightly reduce their impact on the environment. In addition, Starbucks donates $1 to the Ocean Conservancy each time one of these cups is used. This serves as an extra incentive for coffee lovers to do their part to protect the environment. 

Coffee pods 

The company creates coffee pods that are designed especially for Nespresso machines. This allows you to enjoy your favorite type of Starbucks coffee in the comfort of your own home. In the past, coffee pods have gotten a bad rap for being wasteful and difficult to recycle. However, the coffee pods that are offered by Starbucks are fully recyclable

Is Starbucks Really an Environmentally-Conscious Company?

A large part of the company’s brand image is built on being environmentally conscious and ethical. This can be seen in the fact that all coffee is ethically sourced and sustainably produced. However, there are certain areas where Subway is lagging behind.

They still produce substantial carbon emissions and general waste, and their freshwater usage is also quite high. 

Is Starbucks Really an Environmentally-Conscious Company

Three sustainability goals have been set for 2030: 

  • Reduce carbon emissions by 50%.
  • Reduce the water used for store operations and coffee production by 50%.
  • And reduce waste in manufacturing facilities and in stores by 50%.

There is no denying that these are very admirable goals. However, Subway has a history of setting high sustainability targets and failing to meet them. It remains to be seen whether or not these new sustainability goals will be met.

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Get Your Morning Kick At Starbucks!

Need a pick-me-up from your favorite coffee shop? Then let’s find out more about their drinks, such as What Starbucks Drink Has The Most Caffeine, as well as Do Starbucks Refreshers Have Caffeine and Does Starbucks Have Oat Milk if you’re lactose intolerant?

If it’s your special day, you’re probably wondering Can You Get A Free Starbucks Drink On Your Birthday, or for something special, What Is A Handcrafted Drink At Starbucks, or how about Does Starbucks Have Boba and How To Order A Medicine Ball On Starbucks App if you’re feeling under the weather.

For payment options, check out Does Starbucks Take EBT, or perhaps you’re going for the Starbucks 400 Stars Merchandise and want to know more; finally, give the perfect present by finding out Can You Text A Starbucks Gift Card in 2023?

Final Thoughts 

Technically, the new Starbucks cups are recyclable. However, they have to be recycled in dedicated facilities that can be found in select parts of the United States. This process requires a lot of energy and is not the best solution to the problem posed by single-use plastic. 

The best way to reduce your use of single-use plastics is by investing in a reusable cup. What’s great is that Starbucks sells a selection of reusable cold cups, which are ideal for iced beverages. Simply take one of these reusable containers to your local coffee shop and get your cup of Joe to go.

Enjoy your next hot cuppa joe, and thank you for caring!

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