Starbucks and McDonald's Team up to Save the Environment From Paper Cup Waste

Starbucks and McDonald's have announced a new joint effort to implement completely recyclable paper cups.

The fast food chains are two of the biggest producers of paper waste in the world. According to a report by Business Insider, Starbucks says that it contributes about one percent of the 600 billion disposable cups sold across the globe every year. The cafe's familiar vessels cannot just be thrown into the blue bin, either. Starbucks cups -- and many others -- have a thin layer of plastic coating, which seals leaky drinks and prevents burns.

"They look like paper, but they actually have a thin layer of plastic on the inside," said Christy Slay of The Sustainability Consortium.

"A recent report said that there are 600 billion cups — billion with a 'b' — that are produced and sold globally on an annual basis. So that's a lot," she informed reporters from Business Insider.

Unfortunately, it also makes the cups difficult for recycling plants to process. To solve this problem, the company has announced a new alliance with McDonald's in the hopes of developing a more sustainable alternative.

The two corporations are reportedly testing out paper cups with plant-based, biodegradable liners. These will be fully recyclable or even compostable, they say. This is no small undertaking for the two giant conglomerates. They are planning a three-year long project to make this happen, and are no doubt banking on some good PR along the way.

Starbucks and McDonald's are not exactly blazing a new trail here. Compostable coffee cups are already in use with a number of companies, although The Recycling Partnership's Dylan de Thomas told reporters that these are not a silver bullet either.

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"Typically they're compostable in industrial settings, so not your backyard compost that you and I might have, but at fairly technically advanced composting facilities," he said. Of course, industrial composting facilities are rare as well.

The new plan comes shortly after Starbucks dominated a news cycle or two with its promise to do away with plastic straws. The idea infuriated some of the company's loyal customers, and it drew the ire of some environmentalists as well. Reports like this one from Peta circulated social media, pointing out that consumer plastic straws make up only one percent of the plastic waste in the ocean, while nearly half of it comes from industrial fishing equipment.