13 March 2013
RIP Starbucks Paper Cup
The Starbucks Coffee Company is officially the largest coffee house chain in the world, serving over 50 million customers weekly through over 16,000 stores in 61 different countries (Rodden 12). And with a large coffee house chain, results in the use of millions of paper cups every year, which requires a lot of energy to go from raw materials to a cup to in the hands of coffee lovers around the world.
Starbucks cups are the lifeblood of the Starbucks Company. With an iconic company, comes a powerful logo, a green logo with the iconic white siren/twin tailed mermaid, printed on millions of cups and recognized all around the world. "Cups are our icon, our billboard, part of the ethos of the company. Customers have this great experience of interacting with store partners and the beverage” (Kamentez 6). Starbucks sells around 8.2 million paper cups of coffee per day, which contributes to around 1.5% of all the paper cup waste in the world. (Luna 1 and Kamentez 3). This 1.5% of paper cups is not just any paper cups; they are polyethylene paper cups, a special type of cup consisting of polyethylene and paper.
The lifecycle of the polyethylene paper cup is as follows…
The lifecycle of the polyethylene paper cub is long and requires the help of many different people. You need the people who harvest the raw materials, the people who process the raw materials, the people who then convert the processed raw materials into the product, the people who sell the product, and the people who take the product to a transfer station once the product is used. To get to all these different people, different means of transportations is used. For the production of polyethylene cups, the majority of the transportation is done with kinetic energy by machines such as boats and trucks, which tend to use chemical energy through the use of fossil fuels.
The first part of the Starbucks paper cup lifecycle starts with the gathering and preparing of raw materials. Starbucks paper cups have two main components, a paper layer and a polyethylene layer. The paper layer consists of 90% virgin paper board and 10% post-consumer paper (Luna 8). Starbuck’s paper cup manufacturer, International Paper, actually has a patent to have 10% post-consumer fiber in a polyethylene paper cup. The 10% post-consumer polyethylene paper cup has also received FDA approval for 10% pose consumer fiber (PCF) in 2006 and won the National Recycling Coalition’s annual award (FDA 6). The polyethylene layer is made out of polyethylene, the most common type of plastic, which is made out of a mixture of ethylene and Benz-aldehyde (Paxton 1). Polyethylene has a high melting point, 248 to 266 °F, which makes it ideal for cups that are used for hot liquids (Polyethylene 7). By the end of harvesting and preparing the raw materials to make a paper cup about “9000-12000 kg of steam, 960-1000 kw/h of power from electricity and 50m3 cooling water” will be used per ton of raw materials (Hocking Paper 3).
The creation of the polyethylene layer also uses a lot of energy. Ethylene and Benz-aldehyde are mixed and react to make polyethylene. The polyethylene is poured into a pelletizer where it’s turned into pellets to be put into storage till they are heated with thermal energy to be shaped to produce whatever desired (Paxton 5). The polyethylene pellets are sent to International Paper where it will be combined with the virgin bleached paper, which is the later stage of the paper lining.
The gathering of raw materials and preparing for the paper lining requires a lot of energy. Around 357,000,000 trees are cut every year to produce all of Starbucks polyethylene paper cups (Shannon 4). International Paper has multiple sources for trees, they buy from private owners in US and own trees in land in Brazil and Russia (What 24). Machines used to harvest the trees are cable and grappler skidders, feller buncher, forklift, and brush cutters (Turtenwald 1-3). All of these machines use chemical energy by using diesel to run. The kinetic energy of the machines cut, grab, and transport the trees. Once the trees are harvested they are sent to a debark facility. A debark facility usually is comprised of debark machines that run on electricity, diesel, wood waste, or a combination of one, two, or all three of the fuels. Depending on the type of fuel used, electrical, chemical or thermal energy maybe used, or a combination of all three may be used. Once the trees are debarked, they are sent to another facility to be chipped. The trees are chipped with kinetic energy from huge knives attached to steel wheels. The knives are run with chemical and electrical energy or a combination of the two or just one of the two – chemical energy may come from diesel, electrical energy is from electricity (Full 3). Once the trees are chipped they are ready to go to the next step, to be converted into pulp.
The process of going from tree chips to pulp is the most energy intensive stage of the lifecycle of a Starbucks paper cup. Converting chips to pulp can be done with a mechanical or chemical process. The mechanical process requires more energy, and the pulp product is slightly discolored and has more texture. While the chemical process is less energy intensive, the pulp product can be adjusted to a variety of different shades and an array of textures (Full 4). However, the chemical process is not as efficient as the mechanical process, since the amount of fiber collected is about 50% to 60% of what you would get if the mechanical process is done (Full 3).
For the Starbucks paper cup, the chemical process is used since the desired pulp is bright white and smooth. The chips are fed into a digester where chemicals are added. The digester is then heated (thermal energy) to remove lignin, which is a fiber that keeps the chips together. The solution is then heated and fed through different digesters as other chemicals are added. The combined energy recovery from the combustion of wood wastes and the concentrated chemicals provides 50% - 75% of the thermal energy required the pulp mill to operate. The rest of the energy need to run the pulp mill is obtained from the use of chemical energy through the use of fossil fuels (Hocking Relative 5). By the end of the pulping process around “10 tons of steam and 1000 kWh of electric power per ton of cellulose fiber pulp produced” will be used (Hocking Relative 11). The end product will be a large role of pulp, which will later be sent to International Paper who will convert the pulp into paper.
In addition to the virgin bleached pulp, post-consumer pulp is also sent to International Paper. Mississippi River Corporation makes the post-consumer pulp for Starbucks paper cups. Only certain grades of paper can be used to make post-consumer paper. Since the more recycled paper is used, the more of its original strength and properties are lost, so the paper is sorted into different grades before it is sent to Mississippi River Company. Once a certain grade of recycled paper arrives at Mississippi River Corporation, they use machines powered by electrical energy to use kinetic energy to shred the paper, and add chemicals into the paper again. From here, the pulping process is repeated. Once the post-consumer pulp is made, it is sent to International Paper along with the virgin pulp.
Once the post-consumer pulp and virgin bleached pulp gets to International Paper it is processed into paper through a paper machine. The paper machine takes the wet pulp mixes them and slowly thins it out. The paper machine uses electrical energy to run kinetic energy to press and mold the paper, while thermal energy is used to dry the paper. After going through the machine, the new paper ends up in rolls.
The new paper is then fed through a converter machine to be cut into pieces of paper board that will be later converted into a cup. Once the pieces of paper board are cut, the boards are fed through a printing machine, in this case, to get the iconic green Starbucks logo printed on them. Starbucks cups are printed with water based ink, which are more environmentally friendly and are not as toxic as you typical ink. Once the logo is printed on the virgin paper board, the paper is fed through a cup making machine. The boards of paper are folded and creased and thermal energy is used to seal the cups sides together. The end product is the Starbucks paper cup weighing about 8.3 g/cup, with a material specific energy that equals 66 MJ/kg and an embodied energy of 0.55 MJ/cup (Hocking Relative 3).
Once the Starbucks paper cups are made, they are sent to Starbuck’s locations around the world where they wait to have coffee poured into them to be served to a coffee hungry customer. About 80% of the cups will make their way out of the Starbucks coffee house where the majority of them will end up in the landfill (Bouchard 9).
Polyethylene paper cups are “special”, in the majority of the world; they are not recyclable or compostable. The polyethylene lining must be removed from the paper lining since they are two different materials and go through different processes to be recycled or composted. The majority of transfer stations around the world do not have the infrastructure to remove the polyethylene lining. But even if a transfer station had the infrastructure they would still not want to recycle polyethylene cups since recycling them is not cost efficient. “You can collect all of this stuff, but unless you have someone to buy it from you, who cares?’’ (Luna 6). The recycling industry is a business too; they are recycling to make money. Sadly, recycling polyethylene cups does not make money. Instead around 3 billion Starbucks paper cups end up in the landfill every year (Kamentez 3). For Starbucks paper cups to become recyclable one of two possibilities may occur. The first possibility is that the paper cup must be made so that it is 100% recyclable, the change of the making of the paper cup may result in more or less energy use. The second possibility is that the Starbucks paper cup is still made the same, and instead the infrastructure of the recycling industry is changed so that they may recycle the Starbucks polyethylene cup at their facilities. Starbucks director of environmental impact said, “the focus is often what can I do to the cup to make it more recyclable? What’s more important is, what can I do to the infrastructure to make these cups more recyclable?’’’ (Luna 9). Or perhaps we could just incinerate the paper cups to recover around 0.16 MJ/cup of energy, it’s better than them just rotting in the landfill (Reusable 3).
Garbage trucks use chemical or electrical energy to operate kinetic energy to pick up the polyethylene cups. The garbage cups will lead the polyethylene cups to a land fill, where they will finally be laid to rest in peace, where they will spend the rest of their years slowly degrading in the landfill emitting carcinogens, methane and carbon dioxide (Bouchard 12). May you rest in peace Starbucks polyethylene paper cup.
There turned out to be a lot of articles discussing whether polystyrene cups, also known as foam cups, or paper cups were better for the environment. Currently in our society, paper is the most sustainable choice. It turns out that paper actually consumes 1.5 times as much steam and 3.5 times as much electric power per tonne of material as polystyrene (Hocking Relative 14). But, we must also consider that polystyrene takes millions of years to degrade while a paper cup can decompose within a couple of months in the right environment. So paper takes more energy to produce, but which chemicals used in each other processes is worse for the environment. No one can say which is worse since chemicals used in the production of both products have different types of effects.
It was also very interesting to find how the wealth of information varied depending on what aspect of the Starbucks paper cup lifecycle we were researching. There was an abundance of facts about the emissions/waste of the polyethylene paper cup. Information about the raw materials proved to be a bit more difficult to find, but was still available if we looked at different sources. However, the energy aspect of the lifecycle proved to be very difficult to find. Thinking about it a bit more, we concluded that even though the sustainability movement is growing within our society, the movement is more concentrated on the emission/waste aspect of our society. We tend to not think about the complete lifecycle, just the product. A product can be seen, its effects are more tangible; however, the products prior life is harder to trace. That’s why people tend to not think about the whole process, and even more so, all of the energy that has to go into making a single product. The energy required to transport and processes the raw materials to create the product. In the end, I ended up researching about the exact machines used to create the polyethylene paper cup. Once I understood how the machines operated I was able to figure out what types of energy were used to give birth to the polyethylene paper cup. Perhaps this lack of information about the energy required to create the product is a sign that we must become aware about the life cycles of all products. We as designers and our society as a whole must become more conscious not only about the end wastes and emissions from our products, but also the raw materials and energy required to create the products. Only then may we truly lay products like the polyethylene paper cup to rest with no regret.
Perhaps by 2015, Starbuck’s set goal to have a 100% recyclable or reusable cups, we can finally say this…. “we are gathered here today, to remember this Starbucks polyethylene cup, it had dutifully served a coffee lover like so many of its fellow polyethylene paper cups, made with 100% post-consumer materials, and being 100% recyclable, may it be laid to rest in this state of the recycling machine and be allowed to go to polyethylene paper cup heaven and be reborn as a Starbucks polyethylene paper cup once more, to once again serve its family again, Starbucks, may you rest in peace Starbucks polyethylene paper cup” (Goals1).
Bouchard, Mallory. “Moving Away from Disposable Paper Cups.” Four Green Steps. Four Green Steps.com, 17 May 2010. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://www.fourgreensteps.com/infozone/sustainability/moving-away-from-disposable- paper-cups>.
Hocking, Martin B. "Paper Versus Polystyrene: A Complex Choice." Science251.4993 (1991): 504-05. JSTOR. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.
Hocking, Martin B. "Relative Merits of Polystyrene Foam and Paper in Hot Drink Cups: Implications for Packaging." Environmental Management15.6 (1991b): 731-47. Springer Link Journal Archives. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Kamentez, Anya. “The Starbucks Cup Dilema.” Fast Company. Fast Company.com, 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://www.fastcompany.com/1693703/starbucks-cup- dilemma>.
Luna, Taryn. The Boston Globe. Boston.com, 17 Sept 2011. Web. 12 Mar 2013. <http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2011/09/17/starbucks_looks_for_way_to_enco urage_paper_cup_recycling/>.
Paxton, Robert. “How to make Polyethlylene.” Ehow Mom. Ehow.com, 2013. Web. 13 Mar 2013. < http://www.ehow.com/how_10029798_make-polyethylene.html >.
“Polyethylene.” All about Plastic Moulding. Plastic Moulding, 2013. Web. 13 Mar 2013. < http://www.plasticmoulding.ca/polymers/polyethylene.htm>.
“Reusable vs Disposable Cups.” Institute for Lifecycle Energy Analyssis. Tufts.edu, 1994. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://sustainability.tufts.edu/wp- content/uploads/Comparativelifecyclecosts.pdf>.
Rodden, Graeme. "It's The Only One With Coffee." PPI: Pulp & Paper International 52.11 (2010): 19-21. Business Source Complete. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.
Shannon, Mara. “Environmental Impact of Paper Coffee Cups.” Ehow Health. Ehow.com., 2103. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://www.ehow.com/facts_6068110_environmental-impact- paper-coffee-cups.html>.
"Starbucks Gets FDA Approval For Use Of Recycled Paper Fiber Cups." Biocycle 45.12 (2004): 6. Business Source Complete. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.
“The Full Paper Making Process.” World Wide Paper & Pulp Supply Website. Pulp.com, 2003. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://individual.utoronto.ca/abdel_rahman/paper/fpmp.html>.
Turtenwald, Kimberly. “Machines used in Wood Harvesting.” Ehow Money. Ehow.com, 2013. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://www.ehow.com/list_7649143_machines-used-wood- harvesting.html>.
“What Matters Most.” International Paper. International Paper.com, 2011. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://www.internationalpaper.com/documents/EN/Sustainability/IP_Sustainability_Re. pdf>.
March 13, 2013
Life Cycle of a Starbucks Paper Cup - Embodied Energy
Starbucks customers throw away 3 billion hot beverage paper cups each year (Kamenetz 2). Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ director of Environmental Impact, explained, “Cups are our icon, our billboard, part of the ethos of the company. Customers have this great experience of interacting with store partners and the beverage. Then, when they're finished, they say, 'Now what do I do with my cup?’” (Kamenetz 5).
Starbuck’s cups are made from cupstock, also known as paperboard, and are lined with a low-density polyethylene (LDPE) lining. Manufacturing paper cups involves harvesting trees, using machines to turn wood into wood chips, processing the wood chips into pulp, pressing the pulp into paper, and cutting that paper into cups. The raw materials required to produce Starbucks paper cups include water, softwood trees, chemicals, and fossil fuels.
International Paper, an American pulp and paper company, is a “global leader in the paper and packaging industry” with facilities in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and North Africa (“About Us” 1). This company is the largest manufacturer of Starbucks paper cups (“Starbucks and International Paper Demonstrate Viability of Recycling Used Cups Into New Cups” 4). Starbucks purchases over 3 billion coffee cups a year (Rudder 1).
The life cycle of a Starbucks paper cup for hot beverages begins with creating wood chips from pulpwood. Wikipedia defines pulpwood as timber used for “making wood pulp for paper production” (“Pulpwood” 1). Trees are categorized into either softwoods, which include conifers, or hardwoods, which lose their leaves every year. Softwood fibers are 2 to 6 millimeters long compared to hardwood fibers that range from 0.6 to 1.5 millimeters long (“Components of Wood” 6). Softwood’s long fiber length and coarseness makes it more desirable for strong paper such as cupstock.
Trees most commonly used for softwood pulp include southern pine, Douglas fir and spruce. Southern pines are native to the Southeastern United States, Douglas firs are found in North America, and spruce trees are native to temperate and boreal regions of the earth. International Paper C.E.O. John V. Faraci stated in the company’s 2011 sustainability report that “all of International Paper’s products are made from responsibly managed forests.” The company affirms that 100 percent of its fiber is purchased from private forestland owners (“Global Forest Ownership” 8).
Pulpwood is harvested from “inferior trees and components” (“Pulpwood” 4). These sources include trees that are heavily branched low on the tree trunk, dead or diseased trees, tops of cut trees, and trees that are too small for sawlogs (“Pulpwood” 5). Residuals from sawed trees, such as the sapwood, are also used for pulp production because the fiber length of sapwood is generally longer than the fiber length of heartwood (“Pulpwood” 8). Once the wood has been harvested, a woodchipper, a machine that runs on the internal combustion of fossil fuels, cuts debarked softwood into 1 to 2 inch chips across (“Woodchipper” 2).
Pulp mills transform wood chips into pulp, a slurry mixture of cellulose and water. Pulp is the basis of all paper products, and mills can use either mechanical processing or chemical processing to achieve this product. Chemical processing is gentler on the cellulose than mechanical processing and yields longer cellulose fibers for a stronger paper product. Kraft pulping, a type of chemical processing, is the predominate method for pulping because its pulp produces the strongest paper product.
Although neither Starbucks nor International Paper have published data on the specific manufacturing processes for Starbucks paper cups, it can be assumed that these cups are produced using chemically processed Kraft pulp from softwood trees.
Wood is composed of 40-44% cellulose and 25-31% lignin (“Components of Wood” 1). Cellulose consists of long, straight chains of glucose molecules and forms the skeleton of the plant wall. Cellulose fibers are long, strong and translucent. Lignin is a “three dimensional phenolic polymer network” that holds the cellulose fibers together, and it must be removed from the pulp (“Components of Wood” 1). According to the Reach for Unbleached organization, of the all wood’s components, cellulose has the “most desired properties for making paper” (1).
To delignify the wood, a digester cooks wood chips in a solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide at an elevated pressure. This aqueous solution of chemicals, known as “white liquor,” dissolves the lignin and allows the cellulose fiber bundles to separate into individual fibers (“Pulping” 3). After 2 to 4 hours of this dissolving process, the digester discharges the mixture of pulp, used pulping chemicals and wood waste. The used chemicals and wood waste are collectively called “black liquor” (“Pulping” 3). The wood waste is burned and that heat generates high-pressure steam that is used run the mill’s turbines.
The sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide in the black liquor get recycled during an efficient chemical recovery process. The black liquor and water combine in a washer, where a specially designed furnace separates the used sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide from the wood waste. The sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide form a “lava-like smelt” in the furnace and forms “green liquor” when it is combined with sodium carbonate and water in a large water-filled tank (“Pulping” 3). Lime is added to the green liquor, the sodium carbonate converts back into sodium hydroxide, and this solution is usable “white liquor” again.
After this cooking process, the softwood pulp contains 4.5% lignin, which accounts for the pulp’s natural brown color (“Pulping” 5). This lignin gets removed during the bleaching process. PaperOnWeb.org describes that pulp-bleaching processes are categorized either as Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) or Total Chlorine Free (TCF). International Paper lists that their Fortress Polyethylene One Sided (PE1S) Cupstock, the cupstock that a Starbucks cup is most likely made from, is certified Elemental Chlorine Free. Assuming that Starbucks cups require 80-90% brightness, Fortress PE1S Cupstock experiences the following five steps of bleaching.
First, elemental oxygen (O2) is added to the pulp in a pressurized vessel at 85 to 95 degrees Celsius in an alkaline environment for 60 minutes (“Bleaching Stages and Sequences” 17). Oxygen is an inexpensive, highly effective delignifying agent (“Bleaching” 9). Next, chlorine dioxide is used to further remove lignin and brighten the pulp. This step takes place over 180 minutes at 60 to 80 degrees Celsius (“Bleaching Stages and Sequences” 7). Alkali extraction follows, using oxygen and hydrogen peroxide to remove organic waste. Hydrogen peroxide also helps prevent the pulp from yellowing over time. After these steps, the pulp gets treated with two more rounds of chlorine dioxide.
The pulp is washed with water in between each step. According to Mervi Sillanpää, who published “Studies on Washing in Kraft Pulp Bleaching” at the University of Oulu in 2005, the “aim of washing in bleaching is to remove both dissolved organic and inorganic matter, which will disturb the subsequent bleaching stage and enhance the consumption of bleaching reagent” (13).
After the bleaching stage, the only substantial raw material inputs are fossil fuels. This natural resource is used to power the electricity for the machines that transform the pulp into paper, the vehicles that transport each product between facilities, and the creation of LDPE. The pulp is transported from the pulp mill to a paper mill, where the pulp is processed into cupstock using a Fourdrinier machine.
The Fourdrinier machine uses a woven plastic fabric mesh conveyor belt to form a wet web of fiber. This web passes through two large rolls that exert high pressure and squeeze out as much water as possible. The pressed sheet passes through a series of steam heated drying cylinders in a “serpentine manner” (“Paper Machine” 2). Drying decreases water content to 6%. Heavy steel rolls smooth the dried paper in the final stage part of the Fourdrinier machine.
One side of this heavy paper is coated with a thin layer of LDPE. LDPE is a thermoplastic made from petroleum (“Low Density Polyethylene Material Properties” 1). Ethylene, the monomer from which polyethylene is made, is made of hydrocarbons, which are found in petroleum crude oil. The crude oil is obtained from the cracking process used in refining oil and natural gas (“Making Plastics” 2).
Ethylene gas is heated at high pressures with small amounts of oxygen and converts into a white solid. Ethylene monomers form a chain during a polymerization reaction, and the resulting polyethylene shapes into pellets (Lepoutre 1). Pellets are heated and mechanically mixed in a long chamber, forced through a small opening and cooled with air or water during an extrusion process (“Making Plastics” 5). This method creates the polyethylene film that the paper mill applies to the cupstock.
The LDPE lining makes Starbucks’ recycling goals challenging to accomplish. Although cupstock and polyethylene can both be recycled individually, the U.S. recycling industry lacks the infrastructure to recycle the two materials when they are merged. Of the 3 billion cups of coffee that Starbucks sells every year, 80% of them leave the store in the hands of the consumer and ultimately are left to rot in a landfill (Kamenetz 2).
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the U.S. produced 5.29 million tons of bleached kraft cupstock in 2009. According International Paper, quality cupstock has “high functionality, good water barrier, impeccable sealing properties, material purity and attractiveness” (“First Rate Form and Function” 1).
Cupstock arrives at cup factories in large rolls. The rolls get fed into a machine that prints the Starbucks logo on the non-coated side of the paper using water-based inks. The machine then cuts apart the designs to make small sheets, or flats (Miley 1). One end of a large machine rolls the flats into cylinders and seals them by heating up the LDPE coating. The other end of the machine cuts circular cup bottoms from another sheet of cupstock. The machine joins the bottoms and cylinders and “heat-seals” them to each other (Miley 2). Another machine rolls the paper at the top of the cup and creates a rim. The cups are then sent to the packaging department, where they are wrapped and sealed with plastic.
In an effort that won the company the National Recycling Coalition’s annual award, Starbucks began using paper cups composed of 10% post-consumer recycled fiber (PCF) in 2006. PCF is incorporated into the pulp and reduces the use of virgin softwood. This advancement has diverted 200 million pounds of paper from landfills since the PCF cup’s inception.
To further mitigate the environmental impacts from paper cup waste, Starbucks has set a goal to make 100 percent of their cups reusable or recyclable by 2015 (“Goals & Progress: Cup Recycling” 2). In November 2010, Starbucks worked with International Paper Co. and Mississippi River Pulp, LLC. on a six-week project to recycle used Starbucks paper cups into new paper cups.
The Cup-to-Cup project was a triumph, but Mississippi River is the only U.S. pulp mill that has successfully recycled used cups into fiber that is suitable for producing new cups. U.S. recycling plants need enough volume of polyethylene-lined paper cups to make the establishment of the necessary infrastructure economically viable.
Sustainability innovations such as PCF and the Cup-to-Cup project are necessary, because while the most prominent raw materials used to manufacture a Starbucks paper cup, softwood trees and water, are renewable, the fossil fuels needed for fuel and LDPE are not ecologically sound.
“About Us.” International Paper. n.p. n.d. 26 Feb. 2013.
“Bleaching.” Reach for Unbleached Foundation. 21 Feb. 2013.
“Bleaching Stages and Sequences.” Pulp & Paper Resources & Information Site. 21 Feb. 2013.
“Components of Wood.” Reach for Unbleached Foundation. 21 Feb. 2013.
Kamenetz, Anya. “The Starbucks Cup Dilemma.” Fast Company. Fast Company Mag., Nov. 1995. Web. 20 Oct. 2010.
“First Rate Form and Function.” International Paper. n.p. n.d. 26 Feb. 2013.
Freudenrich, Craig. “Making Plastics.” HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks, Inc., n.d. Web. 12 March 2013.
“Global Forest Ownership.” International Paper. n.p. n.d. 26 Feb. 2013.
“Goals & Progress: Cup Recycling.” Starbucks Corporation. n.d. n.p. 2 March 2013.
Lepoutre, Priscilla. “The Manufacture of Polyethylene.” Transpak Industries Ltd. Web. 4 March 2013.
“Low Density Polyethylene Material Properties.” Plastixportal. Plastixportal.co.za. Web. 10 March 2013.
Miley, Michelle. “How Are Paper Cups Manufactured?” eHow. Demand Media, n.d. 1 March 2013.
“Paper Machine.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 3 March 2013.
“Pulping.” Reach for Unbleached Foundation. 21 Feb. 2013.
“Pulpwood.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 3 March 2013.
Rudder, Greg. “Cupstock: Starbucks wants to push more tumbler-mug use.” RISI Wood Biomass Markets. 23 April 2010.
Sillanpää, Mervi. Studies on Washing in Kraft Pulp Bleaching. Oulu: University of Oulu, 2005. Print.
“Starbucks and International Paper Demonstrate Viability of Recycling Used Cups into New Cups.” Starbucks Newsroom. Starbucks Corporation. 30 Nov. 2010.
“Woodchipper.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 3 March 2013.
Wastes and Emissions of the Starbucks Paper Cup
Starbucks is a multi-millionaire corporation that produces nearly 4 billion cups across the globe each year (“Goals”). The production of their cups produces a substantial amount of wastes and emissions from making of the materials of the product to the machines that process the cups, and the wastes that the cup itself leaves on our global environment. There are Starbucks' located all across the world and naturally a proportionally massive amount of wastes and emissions from producing the Starbucks cup. Today, we are specifically analyzing the wastes and emissions of Starbucks’ hot paper cup. The production of the Starbucks paper cup emits an assortment of wastes that ranges from air pollution, landfill, and water contamination. Starbucks prides itself in their eco-friendly methods of production, but as we analyze the wastes and emissions of a hot paper cup you will clearly see that their methods are releasing detrimental gases and emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Starbucks cup is made from 10% recycled fiber and 90% new paper (Saed). Thus, in order to make a paper cup you are going to need a lot of trees. Wood is delivered to paper mills that generate new paper. The production of making paper emits a lot of wastes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s report, Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2010 (EPA, 2011a), paper products accounted for 28.5 percent of the total municipal solid waste generation in 2010. The paper material additionally generates 71,310,000 short tons of waste as stated in the 2008 generation report (Staley). In fact, a cup made of 90% paper and 10% recycled fiber releases horrifying emissions to our environment.
We not only have to take into account the materials to make the cups and their waste contributions, but we must also factor in the gas emissions it takes to manufacture the cups and the transportations of these materials. International Paper, which makes the paper cups for Starbucks, says that their solid waste landfill has increased by 2 percent per metric ton of production since 2006. In 2010 they are disposing over 70 metric tons of solid waste landfill per 1000 metric tons of production (“Solid”). Furthermore, International Paper reported that in 2010 they were emitting approximately 2.3 air metric tons of sulfur dioxide air emissions per 1000 metric tons of production, 2.2 nitrogen oxides metric tons per 1000 metric tons of production, and 0.7 particulate matter of metric tons per 1000 metric tons of production (“Air”). It is important to recognize that these are the statistics that International Paper chose to show on their official website, so these statistics may be skewed towards their favor.
The Starbucks hot paper cup releases a lot of emissions in the transportation and hauling of its materials. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, an average 16 ounce paper coffee cup releases .11kg or .25 lb of CO2 to make and ship it (Report). Also, they estimate that for every coffee cup produced and transported it costs us .09m2 or .93 ft2 of natural habitat. Even more so, for every paper cup we lose it is expected that we lose .27 kg or .6 lb of plant and animal life. Furthermore, they have estimated that it takes 1.7 billion paper coffee cups to potentially trigger the extinction of an entire species. That being said, Starbucks produces 4 billion paper cups a year, so in any case since the beginning of the paper cup they’ve triggered the potential extinction of dozens and dozens of species. According to the Life Cycle Assessment of Paper Waste, the transportation of paper waste produces emissions, such as CO, NOx, and hydrocarbon emissions (Report). Hydrocarbon emissions, in particular, play the largest role in the total wastes at 75%. According to Maimoun Mousa’s 2013 “Waste Management” article, Republic services, which is the second major waste hauler in the United States and the primary main hauler of Starbucks cups, the calculation of the emissions for a typical constant driving vehicle for gas emissions relative to diesel is 15%. They also estimated that the emissions of gaseous hydrogen is approximately 2.1 Kg carbon dioxide equivalent per CVKmT, 0.8 Kg carbon dioxide equivalent per CVKmT for gasoline, and 0.6 Kg carbon dioxide equivalent per CVKmT for gasoline of diesel (Maimoun). Mousa estimates that the emissions from transporting paper wastes, however, make less than 5% environmental impact.
Before the paper cup is formed the paper that takes to make it must go through a paperboard mill and pulping process. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains that pulp, paper and paperboard mill industries are facing stricter restrictions on the amount of permissible air and water emissions, because of the increasing number of toxic pollution in waste-water and hazardous air pollutants from the forest product industry (Manfredi). Specifically, the MACT I regulations require pulp and paper mills to collect and treat non-condensable gas from high volume low concentration sources, which are entire mills that emit gas like 10,000 to 30,000 actual cubic feet per minute or 4.7 to 14 normal cubic meters per second. Methanol of all the gasses emitted is the primary concern of the EPA, because it is emits over 44,000 tons from pulping processes from the entire forest products industry. According to EGRID (Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database), which offers all data on the environmental impact on most electric power generated in the United States, the annual output on pulp and paper mills for the use of electricity in California is the following greenhouse gases: 658.68 carbon dioxide (lb/MWh), 28.94 methane (lb/GWh), and 6.17 Nitrous Oxide (lb/GWh) (Babbitt). Therefore, the wastes from the pulping industry can make detrimental impacts on the environment.
According to an April 2000 study conducted by Starbucks and the Alliance for the Environmental Innovation, each Starbucks paper cup manufactured is responsible for 0.24 lbs of CO2 emissions (Report). Another report conducted by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation and Starbucks found that 1.9 billion cups were used by Starbucks in 2000 and grew to 2.3 billion cups in 2006. And Starbucks produces nearly 4 million cups this year. Its production is ever increasing and the estimation of CO2 emissions as a result is mind-boggling. They also note a complete analysis of the estimated air emissions of the cups. They estimate that for the energy it takes to build the cup they will emit 2479.03 lb/10,000 16 oz cups total green house gases, 1065.63 lb/10,000 16 oz cups net greenhouse gases, 3.52 lb/10,000 16 oz cups net greenhouse nitrogen oxides, 2.12 lb/10,000 16 oz cups of particulates, 5.10lb/10,000 16 oz cups of sulfur oxides. The Alliance and Starbucks expect that air emissions from processing the cups will be 0.42 lb/10,000 16 oz cups of Hazardous Air Pollutants, 0.92lb/10,000 16 oz cups of Volatile Organic Compounds, and .07 lb/10,000 16 oz cups of total reduced sulfur. The total water emissions is estimated as 1.11 lb/10,000 16 oz cup for Biochemical Oxygen Demand, 12.26 lb/10,000 16 oz xups of Chemical Oxygen Demand, and 1.62 lb/10,000 16 oz cups of suspended solids. Also for every 10,000 16 oz cups, they emit 386.05 lb of solid wastes. We must also consider that this Starbucks offering data on their outtake of emissions, so we must leave room for some judgment.
Starbucks uses virgin solid bleached sulfate SBS paperboard and recycled fiber to make cups. I could not find the exact number of emissions it takes to make the cups, but I did find out a bunch of emissions it takes to make a solid bleached sulfated coated paperboard from the Environmental Comparison and manufacturing technologies for virgin and recycled coated paperboard, which are the exact materials that Starbucks uses for their hot cups. The energy related air emissions of making virgin solid bleached sulfate paperboard are 26.9 pounds per air dried ton of sulfur dioxide, 14.4 nitrogen oxide pounds per air dried ton of final product, 11.3 pounds of particulates per air dried ton of final product, 10,400 pounds of total carbon dioxide per air dried ton of final product, and 2,800 pounds of carbon dioxide fossil fuel per air dried ton of final product (Report). The process-related air emissions of making the product are 2.4 pounds of hazardous air pollutants per air dried ton of final product, 5.7 pounds of volatile organic compounds per air dried ton of final product, and 0.37 pounds of total reduced sulfur per air dried ton of final product. The mean effluent flow, or liquid waste or sewage discharged into water, is 20,500 gallons per air dried ton of final product. The effluent quality composes of 3.1 kilograms of biochemical oxygen per air dried metric ton of final product, 4.9 kilograms of total suspended solids per air dried ton of final product, and 44.6 kilograms of chemical oxygen demand per air dried metric ton of final product. The total solid waste generation is 191 kilograms per dried metric ton of final product.
But, we’re not done. The energy-related air emissions for average solid bleached sulfate in pounds per air dried ton of product are: 22.8-31 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 13.0-15.8 pounds of nitrogen oxides, 10.4-12.1 pounds of particulates, 9,400-11,200 pounds of total carbon dioxide, and 2,200-3,600 pounds of carbon dioxide fossil fuel (Report). Furthermore, the process related air emissions in pounds per air dried tons of product are: 2.4 pounds of hazardous air pollutants, 5.7 pounds of volatile organic compounds, and 0.37 pounds of total reduced sulfur. The effluent mean flow of the process of making solid bleached sulfate coated paperboard is 20,500 gallons per air dried ton of final product. The effluent quality is compost of material in kilograms per air dried metric tons of final product: 0.3-6.7 kilograms of biochemical oxygen demand, 0.2-9.8 pounds of total suspended solids, and 15.8-79.5 kilograms of chemical oxygen demand. The total solid waste generation of process related air emissions is 190 kilograms per air dried metric ton of final product.
The emissions of energy-related air pollutants for recycled/recovered fiber at recovered fiber pulping processes in pounds per air-dried ton of final product are 7.35 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 3.63 pounds of nitrogen oxides, 4.77 pounds of particulates, 1,000 pounds of total carbon dioxide, and 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide fossil fuel (Report). The emissions of energy- related air pollutants associated with paper-making products of coated paperboard in pounds per air-dried ton of final product are 15.43 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 7.02 pounds of nitrogen oxides, 3.32 pounds of particulates, and 2,200 pounds of carbon dioxide. The estimate of effluent flow for recovered fiber is 8,000 gallons per air dried metric ton of final product for 11 mills. The total solid waste from recovered fiber pulp mills is 105(kg/ADMTFP), which is composed of 39 (kg/ADMTFP) of sludge and 66 (kg/ADMTFP) of miscellaneous solid waste.
The Starbucks paper cup is also lined with polyethylene, which is a synthetic resin that makes the paper cup waterproof. High-density polyethylene, lining made of petroleum that protects the cup from melting from hot drinks, also contributes to landfill waste. According to the 2009 Waste Management and Research, the energy factor for producing high-density polyethylene is around 1.85 kg of carbon dioxide, but the statistic leaves out the fossil carbon contained in the synthetic liner (Fruergaard). The research also assumes that 1 kg of the polyethylene waste fills up 20m of landfill depth.
After the production of the cup is over the cup either has the choice of going to recycling or the landfill. While I could not find how many Starbucks cups are thrown in the landfill each year, I found a statistic on how many paper cups in general are estimated to fill the landfill annually. The United States uses about 58 billion paper cups every year and 645,000 tons of waste results in these landfills (Oches). Take into mind that the Starbucks cup is approximately 7% of the total U.S. paper waste. While the Starbucks paper cup decomposes in the landfill it releases a greenhouse gas called, methane, which traps heat 23 times faster than carbon dioxide. The result of methane speeds our process of the greenhouse effect, which means that the excessive gases lock heat closer to the earth which results in global warming and climate change.
Additionally, I was not able to find exactly how much emissions the Starbucks paper cups emitted, but I found a study on the total Starbucks emission into the atmosphere. According to a 2007 report by Forbes, Starbucks emitted 295,000 tons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2003 (Narang). Starbucks emitted an additional 81,000 tons of CO2 by the transportation of materials and removing solid waste.
When paper is decomposing in the landfills and processing in paper mills, it releases carbon dioxide and methane. Methane and carbon dioxide emissions are leading factors in global warming, but what’s more is that the methane released is highly dangerous for the fact that it creates photochemical formation on the earth’s ozone. The creation of a hot paper cup entails thousands and thousands of wastes and emissions into the atmosphere. There are so many kinds of toxins seeping into the earth, the air, our waters, because of the production of the hot paper cup. While Starbucks is using 90% paper and 10% recycled fiber to manufacture their cups it is clear that these changes do little for the environment. The sole production of cups requires a tremendous amount of resources, energy, and wastes. No matter how popular the cup is, no matter how much they advertise it as a recycled paper and fiber product the Starbucks cup will continue spreading an increasing amount of emissions and toxins into our environment.
"Air Emissions." International Paper - Air Emissions. International Paper, 2010. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.
Babbitt, Callie W., et al. "Design‐based life cycle assessment of hazardous air pollutant control options at pulp and paper mills: a comparison of thermal oxidation to photocatalytic oxidation and biofiltration." Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology 84.5 (2009): 725-737.
Fruergaard, Thilde, Tomas Astrup, and Thomas Ekvall. "Energy use and recovery in waste management and implications for accounting of greenhouse gases and global warming contributions." Waste Management & Research 27.8 (2009): 724-737.
"Goals & Progress: Cup Recycling." Goals & Progress: Cup Recycling. Starbucks, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.
"International Paper - Solid Waste." Solid Waste. International Paper, 2011. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.
Maimoun, Mousa A., et al. "Emissions from US waste collection vehicles."Waste Management (2013).
Martindale, W., et al. "The carbon dioxide emission footprint of food products and their application in the food system." Aspects of Applied Biology 86 (2008).
Manfredi, Simone, et al. "Landfilling of waste: accounting of greenhouse gases and global warming contributions." Waste Management & Research 27.8 (2009): 825-836.
Narang, Sonia. "Carbon With That Latte?" Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 07 July 2003. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.
Oches, Sam. "Starbucks Pushes For 100 Percent Recyclable Cups - QSR Magazine." Starbucks Pushes For 100 Percent Recyclable Cups - QSR Magazine. Journalistic Inc., 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.
Report of the Starbucks Coffee Company/ Alliance for Environmental Innovation Joint Task Force. Rep. Boston: Alliance for Environmental Innovation, 2000. Print.
Saed, Tamara. "The Impact of One Cup of Starbucks Coffee." A Global Citizenship. The Impact of One Cup of Starbucks Coffee, 2010. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.
"Solid Waste." International Paper- Solid Waste. International Paper, 2011. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.
Staley, Bryan F., and Morton A. Barlaz. "Composition of municipal solid waste in the united states and implications for carbon sequestration and methane yield." Journal of Environmental Engineering 135.10 (2009): 901-909.