Are Starbucks Cups Recyclable? (You’ll Be Surprised)

Starbucks is proud of its reputation as an environmentally conscious company and has recently announced its goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030.

Like many others, you may wonder if Starbucks cups are recyclable, following the company’s commitment to sustainability. Here’s what I’ve found out about the matter!

Are Starbucks Cups Recyclable?

Starbucks cups are recyclable, but only in special facilities which are not widely available. As a result, billions of the iconic Starbucks cups end up in landfills or incinerators. Like other major corporations, Starbucks is looking for an alternative Green Cup and experimenting with compostable, reusable, and easily recyclable cups.

Read on if you have more questions about Starbucks’ efforts to prevent pollution caused by single-use cups. I’ve done the research and have the answers for you!

What Are Starbucks Cups Made Of?

Starbucks coffee cups are so difficult to recycle because the paper cups have a thin plastic lining inside to prevent the liquid contents from leaking.

With that, the cups’ materials make it difficult to recycle them in a regular recycling facility because the paper and plastic lining must be separated first.

Once this is done, both the plastic and paper can be recycled.

However, recycling facilities that carry out this more complex operation are not widely available.

For example, suitable recycling centers exist only in a few locations, including Wisconsin, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

As a result of Starbucks cups being hard to recycle, billions of Starbucks single-use coffee cups are just thrown away every year and end up in landfills or incinerators.

Are Starbucks Cups Compostable?

Are Compostable Cups Really Compostable?

Unfortunately, Starbucks cups are not compostable as they have plastic linings within the cup.

In 2018, Starbucks and other major corporations like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Nestlé, and Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut) created a consortium with Closed Loop Partners for the NextGen Cup Challenge.

With that, the competition’s goal was to crowdsource a solution for an eco-friendly cup that could be used globally to reduce the problems created by throwing away single-use cups.

Moreover, some of the ideas proposed by competitors in the NextGen Cup Challenge were cups that could be recycled, reused, or composted.

However, at this time, these cups have not been introduced.

Starbucks Introduces Reusable Cups

In 2021, Starbucks introduced reusable personal cups at its stores in the US. This means customers can bring their clean reusable cups to the store counter when they order.  

Then, the barista will check the cup for cleanness before filling it with the beverage ordered. However, reusable cups are not yet available at Starbucks drive-throughs.

Additionally, Starbucks will donate $1 to the Ocean Conservancy each time a customer uses a reusable cup, up to one million dollars.

Are Starbucks’ Plastic Cold Cups Recyclable?

Starbucks’ plastic cold cups are recyclable in the correct facility, and you can check with your local recycling facility to see if they accept Starbucks’ plastic cold cups.

Are Starbucks Coffee Pods Recyclable?

Since Starbucks coffee pods are made for Nespresso machines, they are indeed recyclable. You can see this guide here to learn how to dispose of Nespresso pods properly.

How Do I Dispose Of Starbucks Cups?

You can recycle most cups from Starbucks; however, you must bring the cups to a facility equipped to separate the plastic lining from the paper cup.

Is Starbucks an Environmentally Conscious Company?

Starbucks has sought to position its brand image as an ethical and environmentally conscious company, and it has done better in some areas than others.

For example, Starbucks coffee is ethically sourced and sustainably produced. However, Starbucks operations are still responsible for carbon emissions, freshwater usage, and waste.

To help make a better impact on the environment, Starbucks has set itself three sustainability goals for 2030:

  • Cut carbon emissions in half
  • Conserve half the water used for coffee production and store operations
  • Cut waste by half in stores and manufacturing facilities

These are admirable goals, but the company has not always met its sustainability targets in the past.

Is There a Solution To the Single-Use Plastic Cup Problem?

Yes, there is a solution to the problems created by disposable single-use cups, but it will take efforts along multiple tracks.

For example, it will take policy, corporate, and behavioral changes to end plastic pollution caused by single-use cups.

Newly designed recyclable and compostable cups can help reduce the problem, but customers must learn how to dispose of them properly.

Also, customers can only properly dispose of recyclable and compostable cups when they have access to the proper facilities, so convenient disposal receptacles are essential for change.

With that, Starbucks’s adoption of reusable cups in 2021 may be one of the best ways of tackling the problem.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether or not Starbucks has boba, whether Starbucks refreshers have caffeine, and if Starbucks has oat milk.

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Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of

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