Why We Need a #BetterCup

Each year, 265 billion paper cups are thrown away, unable to be recycled or composted in most places around the world. That's because the inside each of these cups is a thin layer of plastic. To make things worse, the vast majority of these cups have no recycled content – they're made of freshly-cut trees and forests that are vital for wildlife and for safeguarding our climate and our water. That's millions of trees cut down every year.

In 2016, Stand.earth started the #BetterCup campaign, an initiative to get coffee companies to change how their cups are made. Our first target was the world's largest coffee retail chain: Starbucks.

After two years of campaigning alongside volunteers, communities, and even Starbucks employees, the global coffee giant agreed to give us a #BetterCup by 2021.

See more about how you helped convince Starbucks to do the right thing.

Now, coffee retailers have a unique opportunity to meet or beat Starbucks’ environmental leadership by committing to:

  1. Reducing Disposable Cup Consumption by meeting or exceeding Starbucks’ commitment to serve 5% of coffee in reusable cups.
  2. Advancing a Universally Recyclable Cup and Working to Ensure Cups Get Recycled by adopting the use of a universally recyclable coffee cup that is not lined with 100% polyethylene plastic
  3. Using Recycled Fiber in Cups at a level that meets or beats Starbucks’ April 2017 commitment to switch to a 20% post-consumer recycled fiber paper cup within 3 years.
  4. Ensuring Wood Used in Paper Cups is Responsibly Sourced through a just procurement policy, supply-chain tracking and the use of FSC certification (the most credible forest certification system in the world

Changing Starbucks

Stand started our #BetterCup campaign with Starbucks by talking to the company first. When the company refused to act, the corporation invited creative, engaging protests at its headquarters, stores, sponsored events, and its annual general meetings.

As the controversy grew, so did the pressure on Starbucks to act from a broad range of people: Starbucks headquarters staff, baristas, shareholders, and customers. After the first year of the campaign, Starbucks committed to double the amount of post-consumer recycled fiber in its paper cups by 2020, and renewed its commitment to reduce single-use cup use by serving 5% of beverages in reusable cups by 2020.

After the second year of the campaign, Starbucks renewed its long-held commitment to make a 100% recyclable cup by promising to deliver a 100% recyclable and compostable paper cup by 2021 in what was dubbed “Next Generation Cup Challenge.” Starbucks learned how refusing to act has a cost, but took action to avoid further controversy.

The Next Phase: Retail Coffee and QSRs

The Better Cup Campaign now has its sights set on the rest of the industry — what's known as the Quick Serve Restaurant and retail coffee sector. An open letter to the coffee industry to ‘meet or beat’ Starbucks’.  Companies are urged to avoid the controversy by working with Stand to take leadership and use their brand and scale to affect positive change in the market.