Enjoy your to-go cup of joe
We recently conducted a new consumer research survey around a full spectrum of environmental questions, including questions about recycling. We found 80% of consumers between the ages of 18-49 are confused about some aspect of recycling.
This is a problem. Because for many consumers, recycling is a key way they participate in sustainability, and many view it as the key action they take to display their commitment to their ideals, according to Hartman Group’s 2019 Sustainability – Beyond Business as Usual report. Our study reaches a similar conclusion. Among consumers 18-49:
- 79% agree recycling paper-based products is worthwhile
- 69% agree recycling is environmentally friendly
- 61% agree recycling is worth the cost to tax payers
It makes sense, then, that recycling rates would improve if consumers had simple and clear instructions for how to recycle different common categories of products — like the coffee cup that seems to be at the center of so many fretting articles about sustainability these days. Those worrying stories focus almost entirely on disposal, and the fact that cups are not accepted in residential recycling programs in some places.
But arrayed against that one concern are dozens of other facts that make paper cups a great choice for people concerned with sustainability.
First and most importantly, not only are the cups sourced from sustainable paper and trees, coffee cups are recyclable in many markets, including major cities like Boston, Denver, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. That list of cities is growing thanks to changes on both the supply and demand sides. Our recycling infrastructure is modernizing and expanding at the same time manufacturers are innovating new technologies and working with municipalities to make even more cups suitable for recycling.
But secondly, it matters that paper is used to make the cup and that the paper is sourced both from replaceable trees and potentially recycled tree fibers.
Sustainability is in the very DNA of the forest products industry. Paper and packaging companies in the U.S. engage in responsible forestry practices. Almost all U.S. manufacturers voluntarily participate in third-party independently monitored and internationally recognized sustainability standards. And, in the U.S., twice as much wood is grown each year as is harvested, a major reason why forestland in the United States has remained stable, not shrinking, for decades. Pretty amazing when you think about the population of our country!
In fact, our very business model depends on the health and longevity of our forests, and demand for our products ensures that forestland stays forestland, and isn’t converted to other agricultural use, or developed as real estate.
We are fond of saying that paper is a technology — and a complex, innovative technology at that. But at the end of the day, its sustainability story is simple. Paper is a renewable material, and when you use it you are part of its circular economy, a sustainable life cycle that is thoughtful both about where fiber comes from, and where it ends up.
That means that drinking your coffee in a paper cup is not just ‘okay,' it means you can be part of an achievable, sustainable lifestyle.