Recyclable, biodegradable cup initiative addresses sustainability concerns

Through the NextGen Consortium Challenge, McDonald’s and Starbucks have partnered to tackle the problem of non-recyclable take away cups. The fully recyclable and compostable coffee cup should be ready by 2021, allowing fast food retailers to not only address the concern surrounding pollution, but also counter deforestation and illegal logging.

Current cups are paper based with a petrol based lining making them difficult to recycle. Risks exist beyond the issue of waste though, as illegal logging has been traced with paper production even when it bears FSC certification.

And while countries have implemented legislative acts such as the European Union Timber Regulation to acquire supply chain visibility beyond certification schemes, companies remain inherently exposed to traces of illegal logging in their supply chain. For example, the US imports 9% of global paper products – of which 15% are sourced from China; however, China is the largest importer of Burmese wood used in paper product production

Unfortunately, 72% of Burmese wood exports are logged illegally, highlighting how US importers of paper products are exposed to a long chain of traceability concerns.

While there is no certainty as to what the composition of the new cup will be, by moving away from a non-recycled paper base, fast food chains will be distancing themselves from paper products potentially produced from illegally logged wood