Can we recycle Starbucks coffee bags? 

In this short report we will be discussing the topic “recycling Starbucks coffee bags” and highlight some of the key material composition that decides its recyclability. We will further discuss the initiatives taken by Starbucks company in reducing the usage of non-recyclable coffee bags. 

What material is used to make Starbucks coffee bags? 

Coffee is used as a source of morning refreshment by many. Along with some of its health benefits, coffee provides a great source of energy and enthusiasm, and all this is attributed to the caffeine present in the coffee. Studies have suggested that up to three cups of coffee a day lowers the risk of stroke and serious heart disease. 

With more such studies and promotions people are driven to the use of more coffee than tea. It is estimated that over one billion people drink coffee every day and in the US alone this number is 400 million coffee consumers every day. With more types of flavor, the coffee business is growing up and Starbucks is pushing ahead in this market. 

Starbucks being the leading coffee house chain, sells millions of its products every day and this number is still growing. Other than the coffee drinks, Starbucks also sells a variety of coffee beans and ground coffee and are attracting customers worldwide. These coffee bags are made with an intent to protect the coffee and its flavor and aroma from the moisture, vapor, and other chemicals that can negatively impact it. 

For this most of the coffee bags used by Starbucks have several layers of plastic coating inside it which gives it necessary durability and protection. However, before introducing plastic to their packaging material, most coffee bags have aluminum foil lining which act as a perfect barrier to the coffee from the surrounding. 

Aluminum sheets are laminated either in the inner side of the pack or used as a middle layer that provides a high barrier. These are durable materials and being light weight serves its purpose. However, aluminum being expensive is replaced by PET plastic which also gives a clean appearance to the bag. 

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Starbucks coffee bag

Can we recycle Starbucks coffee bags? 

Starbucks coffee is one of the main choices of people who like to include coffee in their everyday activity. Other than the satisfying sip of your favorite coffee, there are many other uses of coffee grounds such as removing hand odor, cleaning wooden floors, keeping pests out of the garden, and providing nutrients to your plants. 

Other than providing ready-made coffee and related drinks, Starbucks also sells coffee beans or ground coffee for those who like to enjoy their refreshments at home. With this there are also the bags that are used for packaging the coffee products that need to be taken care of. In order to seal the aroma and flavor of the coffee these bags use another material such as aluminum foil or plastics along with the main paper bag. 

Thus, when you see the Starbucks coffee bags it looks like they are made of paper, but usually it has a lamination or plastic and sometimes aluminum to provide a barrier from the entry of unwanted flavor and aroma. Plain paper or just paper is recyclable and can be discarded in the curbside recycling bin. You can also dump plastic and other recyclable materials at the curbside recycling bin. However, these are later separated at the recycling center where each item is recycled separately. 

The issue with Starbucks coffee bags is that they are not made of just paper. The plastic lining in the paper bag is infused with the paper bag and is not an isolated material. This will cause issues with recycling where only paper is taken. The plastic present in the coffee bag is a cause of contamination and hence Starbucks coffee bags cannot be recycled. 

What initiatives of Starbucks help with recycling? 

There are initiatives taken by Starbucks to encourage customers to recycle cups for their coffee. Some of the initiatives include: 

  • Encouraging use of reusable cups at a $1 deposit which is refunded when you give the cup back. 
  • Their partnership with Rindell which offers a home pick-up service for reusable and non-recyclable items. 
  • Committed to the research and test solution through Closed Loop Partners and their NextGen Consortium as well as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy Global Commitment for the invention of recyclable or eco-friendly cups, lids, and straws. 
  • According to CNN, Starbucks have been pilot testing environmentally friendly cups that are based on paper and lined with compostable material called BioPBS rather than the plastic ones. 

However, a goal to achieve complete recyclability and reusability is still a long way for the company. With their worldwide demand for Starbucks coffee, it is very important to make a significant change through several programs aimed at sustainability and eco-friendly products. 

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Take away coffee cup and beans

Are Starbucks coffee bags eco-friendly? 

Starbucks coffee bags that are made from plastic liners are non-recyclable. This is due to the difficulty in removing the plastic lining from the paper cup which in turn contaminates the paper recycling process. Through their many initiatives, it is a hope that Starbucks will be able to achieve their contribution to an eco-friendly environment.


In this short report we have discussed the topic “recycling Starbucks coffee bags, its making, and reasons why these are considered as non-recyclable. We have further discussed the initiatives taken by the Starbucks company to deal with non-recyclable wastes and how to make an eco-friendly alternative. 

Frequently asked question (FAQs): Recycling Starbucks coffee bags. 

Can you recycle Starbucks plastic? 

Though Starbucks have made many pledges since 2008 to introduce recyclable cups, they still way back in their promise. Most of the Starbucks coffee cups still use plastic liner to avoid leaking. These liners are made from polyethylene and if these cups are dumped in paper recycling centers then it will end up contaminating the whole thing. 

What happens to these cups is that they end up in landfill and you can guess the numbers of waste cups that are piled up from the daily need of coffee for many. 

How do you dispose of Starbucks coffee pods? 

With the overuse of coffee as a refreshment beverage, many coffee producing companies are coming up with their own recycling centers where the coffee pods can be collected and recycled. Starbucks Nespresso boutique has 7000+ collection centers in the UK which collect the coffee pods and send it for recycling. 

Podback is another recycling scheme set up by Nestle where coffee pods from several different coffee brands are collected and sent for recycling. Other than this, there is also curbside recycling for their coffee pods. 

Are Starbucks coffee bean bags recyclable? 

Most of the paper, plastic, or metal are recyclable, but, if you mix each other and contaminate them then you are removing the possibility of recycling it. Starbucks coffee bags also have this kind of issue due to the presence of plastic lining inside the paper bags used for packaging. 

The reason they have used this plastic lining is to preserve the flavor and aroma of the coffee within it. Sometimes coffee takes up the flavor or smell of the food around it and your coffee will taste different than what was expected. Plastic lamination prevents this and that is the reason most Starbucks coffee bags are choosing this type of plastic bags. Thus, Starbucks coffee bags are not recyclable or compostable.

Are coffee bags compostable? 

All types of paper materials are compostable which include, plain papers, paper bags, and cellulosic material as these are naturally degraded by the microorganisms present in the soil. Composting condition is ambient for the activity of microorganisms and if your coffee bags do not contain plastic lining, these can be used as compost with other biodegradable materials such as vegetable wastes and garden wastes. 

Before composting it is a good method to shred the paper bags so that it can be decomposed by the microbes easily. 

Are brown coffee bags recyclable? 

If your favorite brand comes in a pure paper bag, then it is completely recyclable. You can discard it in the recycling bin without any confusion. However, most of the coffee bags are made for its durability and leakproof property while storing and transporting. Though paper is the main material, these are lined with many layers of plastic and aluminum foils. 

Think of the tedious work it brings when placed in the recycling bin. Each part of the bag must be removed and recycled separately. This is the reason why most recycling centers do not accept foil lines coffee bags. 

Can I recycle foil lined coffee bags? 

Try to avoid buying foil lined plastic bags as these cannot be recycled. Foil lined coffee bags have plastic material used to laminate inside of coffee bags which prevents its leaking and helps in reserving the flavor and aroma of the coffee. The lining is a sort of contamination when given for recycling. 

Papers and plastics need to be recycled separately; however plastic lined foil bags begin to degrade even before they are processed. Hence it is better to buy coffee stored in a plastic or steel container as these are easily recycled without any contamination. Moreover, if you are a regular coffee user, buy in bulk which is not only eco-friendly but also economical. 

What can I do with used coffee bags? 

Coffee bags are durable and to some extent sturdy. These can be used as packaging for any other food items or craft objects. Kids love to make ‘do it yourself craft’ with coffee bags such as Halloween masks, bags, wall decorations, and other crafts. Some coffee manufacturing companies have come forward with the suggestion of using their empty coffee bags as a pot for planting your favorite plants. 

Just pierce some few holes at the bottom and use your favorite planting soil with seeds and keep them in your home or garden. Due to their compact structure, they can fit anywhere and because of their aroma, it keeps the pests away from your plant. 


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