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Every Year, Starbucks Sends 4 Billion Nonrecyclable Paper Cups to Landfills

In 2008, Starbucks publicly acknowledged that the plastic coatings it used on its paper cups made them impossible to recycle using the kinds of equipment deployed by municipalities around the world, and kicked off an annual competition to improve the cup design -- but five years later, it shut the competition down, went on using the unrecyclable cups, and adopted the line that the world's taxpayers should foot the bill for upgrading recycling plants to accommodate its cups.

The cups themselves are made from high-quality paper that could be recycled several times, but the 100% oil-based polyethylene plastic linings -- made by Dow and Chevron, among others -- clog the recycling machines. Many discarded cups -- and waste from the cup-manufacturing process -- end up in China, but they're not recycled there, either -- they just get landfilled.