Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) has begun implementation of the second phase of a food-packaging project designed to recycle paper cups and fast food packaging, along with corrugated cardboard, into valuable, high-quality materials. The pilot, a collaboration between CoRR and New York city-area based educational institutions Pratt Institute and The New School, involves recycling paper coffee cups at the The New School’s café.
Phase I of this project involved an eight-week pilot conducted at seven Starbucks stores in Manhattan to collect and recycle its paper hot beverage cups, which were prescreened for recyclability, with old corrugated cardboard (OCC). As CoRR reports, Phase I tests met established targets to merit additional testing.
Phase 2 features prototypes of recycling bins and educational communications developed for a university or cafeteria setting. The consumer education strategies being tested include educational posters, tabletop informational toys, and completely redesigned trash, plastic bottle/aluminum can/glass bottle, mixed paper, and paper cup bins with eye-level signage.
The designs, by Pratt Institute's Center for Sustainable Design Studies (CSDS), were informed by in-store observations conducted during the Starbucks pilot last fall. Students of Pratt Institute’s CSDS and The New School will be examining consumer behaviors over the course of the trial. Cups will be collected and recycled by Action Carting.
CoRR relates that its 2011 goal is to demonstrate the success of the concept at scale. The material will be held for two weeks and surged through a local recycling mill in order to prove the ease of recycling this material, even when a surge in foodservice packaging materials occurs in the OCC stream. The results of recycling this volume of material with OCC as one batch will provide the ‘in the field’ data needed to garner support from other mills and expand to other cities and markets, the group says.
According to data cited by CoRR, every year, 58 billion paper cups are used in the U.S. at restaurants, events, and homes. If all paper cups in the U.S. were recycled, 645,000 tons of waste would be diverted from landfills each year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 million mtCO2e, equivalent to removing 450,000 passenger cars from the road. If successful, CoRR says the pilot could influence the design of all paper food packaging, potentially increasing the benefits above by ten-fold.