SPC Advance
Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop partnership project with Starbucks
Jay Hunsberger
September 28, 2018

This week, we had the pleasure of announcing our exciting Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop partnership project — an innovative collaboration between Sustana and three other supply chain partners, working together to demonstrate that Starbucks cups could be recycled and turned into new cups.

With partners from Starbucks and WestRock Paper Mill, we shared our proof-of-concept project, and discussed the performance and fiber recovery of single use coffee cups, during a panel at the SPC Advance 2018 Conference: A Fix For Your Daily Coffee Fix. The discussion also included participants from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Closed Loop Fund and Kotkamills Oy.

It’s no secret that paper takeaway cups have long proven to be a challenge, as they aren't accepted by many recycling facilities due to their plastic coating. As a result, tens of billions of these cups end up in landfills every year in the United States alone, despite the fact that many could have been recycled and reused instead. This has been due to a lack of cup collection and separation services, and technical difficulties with cups at recycling facilities – but we set out to change that. We’re continuing to not only supply recycled materials into the supply chain, but also recover even more of the byproducts and side streams for reuse.

Our Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop partnership project showed that we can process these cups in an environmentally responsible way, allowing them to re-emerge as clean, safe fiber used to make new cups, made using old Starbucks cups. This included Starbucks, Sustana, WestRock (paper) and Seda (packaging), all working together to close the loop and make the case for sustainable manufacturing. Sustana’s pivotal role was using these old cups as raw material to manufacture 100 percent recycled, FDA-compliant fiber in an economically viable manner. Sustana has continuously invested in equipment and technology to allow for the recycling of single-use coffee cups efficiently, effectively and at scale, by separating the interior plastic lining of the cups.

Watch our video about the Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop partnership project


The project proved that if collection systems exist, recycling paper cups and turning them into fiber for new cups is a sustainable alternative to landfilling, with both environmental and economic benefits. To demonstrate this innovative solution further, Sustana collected the paper cups used at the SPC Advance 2018 Conference, diverting waste from landfill and giving the recaptured fibers new life as products made from recycled fibers. And now, as showcased in our successful Cup-to-Cup partnership project, we can close the loop – reducing landfilling and the usage of virgin fiber.

Sustana, a leading producer of FSC-certified recycled fibers, takes its role as a steward of the environment seriously. With our EnviroLife food-grade packaging fibers product, we are the only manufacturer of 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber that is FDA-compliant for use in direct food content packaging.