NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Starbucks may soon serve your morning coffee in a used paper cup that has been recycled into a new paper cup, as the coffee chain aims to ensure that 100% of its cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015.
But now the company plans to take its green initiative a step further thanks to Mississippi River Pulp's success in recycling used Starbucks paper cups into fiber suitable for producing new cups during a recent six-week pilot program.
"This innovation represents an important milestone in our journey," said Jim Hanna, Starbucks director of environmental impact. "We still have a lot of work to do to reach our 2015 goal, but we're now in a much stronger position to build momentum across the recycling industry."
Starbucks plans to test the so-called cup-to-cup concept in a major city in 2011 by working with Mississippi River and International Paper (IP, Fortune 500), the largest manufacturer of Starbucks paper cups and a primary driver behind the idea.
"What's really exciting about the cup-to-cup concept is that it has the potential to benefit not only Starbucks, but the entire food service industry, said Greg Wanta, vice president of International Paper's food service business. "If we can continue to prove the value of used cup material generated by Starbucks and other retailers, we can help increase recycling rates in communities across the country."
International Paper's website features photos documenting the process of how the company processed the used paper cups into new cups.
In 2008, Starbucks set several aggressive goals to reduce its environmental impact. Over the past year, the company has introduced front-of-the-store centers in Toronto and Seattle to recycle cups, and in San Francisco, where cups can be composted.
In 86 of its Manhattan stores, the company is collecting paper cups to determine whether they can be recycled into bath tissue and paper towels. In Chicago, Starbucks plans to launch a program to help recycle used paper cups into napkins for the store.