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The food packaging goal is to recycle paper cups and foodservice packaging into valuable, high-quality materials. Every year, 5.7 million tons of paper, prepared food packaging is landfilled in the United States. The collection and recycling of this material would decrease greenhouse gas emissions by ~15 million mtCO2e, equivalent to removing 3 million passenger vehicles from the road.

Re-imaging the School Lunch Tray in New York City

Global Green USA and Parsons the New School for Design held a class focused on re-designing New York City school lunch trays. With over 830,000 lunch trays sent to landfill each school day in NYC, the challenge is: Can we transform trays currently made from unrecoverable expanded polystyrene foam into aesthetically pleasing, functional, recyclable, and compostable lunch trays?

Our Approach

We use a phased approach, which includes pilot programs that build on one another to achieve our ultimate goal -- demonstrating the concept at scale. Each pilot contains the following components.


Step 1: Material Pre-Screen Paper packaging included in the pilot programs is evaluated using the Fibre Box Association's Wax Alternative protocol. The protocol test for both reliability and recyclability of the packaging compared to old corrugated containers at containerboard mills.

Step 2: In-Store Design Bin design and in-store communications that encourage proper sorting by customers are tested. Our goal is a recycling stream that is at least 90% clean.

Step 3: Collect and Divert into Highest-Value Stream Foodservice packaging can be collected and sent to recycling mills that can accept a variety of inputs, including cardboard boxes, also known as old corrugated cardboard. Old Corrugated Cardboard is one of the most recycled materials in the U.S.

Step 4: Recycle Material & Conduct Tests Material is recycled and testing is conducted to determine the most valuable end products and inform future packaging designs.

Tour of United Corrstack Pulp Mill in Reading, PA

CoRR team members toured Interstate Resources’ United Corrstack pulp mill – a mill that accepts paper coffee cups as a part of a larger mix of inputs. The goal of the trip was to see first-hand how the process works and how foodservice packaging fits as an input for their end-products.

Pret A Manger Post-Consumer Material Passes WMU Recyclability and Repulpability Test for Brown Tissue Applications

At the TAPPI PEERS Conference, Global Green and Western Michigan University presented the results of the first recyclability and reliability test with post-consumer material using WMU's newly developed protocol to assess a material's usability as input for tissue and towel applications. The post-consumer paper foodservice packaging passed the test, indicating that it could be a valuable input for manufacturing brown tissue products. This helps to support the case that this material could be diverted from landfills in larger quantities, and utilized as an input for new paper products.

Global Green Releases Pret A Manger Waste Characterization Results

Approximately one year after the deployment of Pret A Manger's pioneering front- and back-of-house system for composting and recycling, Global Green undertook a waste characterization to assess the program's success. The findings detail the stream quality and capture rates of the four-stream front-of-house bin system, which includes paper recycling, plastic and aluminum recycling, food scraps, and trash, as well as Pret's back-of-house food donation, recycling, and composting programs. Using the data collected through the waste characterization, Global Green also developed an analysis of the greenhouse gas impacts of composting all paper packaging as opposed to collecting it separately for recycling.

Pret A Manger Launches First Recycling Pilot to Go Beyond the Cup

Pret A Manger launched a 3-store, eight-week pilot to recycle it's sandwich and salad boxes, soup containers, coffee cups, and bottles and cans. While recycling coffee cups and beverage containers previously have been piloted, this is the first pilot to recycle a range of paper food packaging items.


Pret A Manger worked with Western Michigan University to pre-screen its salad and sandwich boxes, soup/oatmeal containers and lids, and coffee cups for recyclability and reliability with respect to Old Corrugated Cardboard. Working with Clean River, Pret A Manger developed a three-bin recycling system for paper packaging, metals and plastics, and trash. Materials are collected by Action Carting. For future pilots, Pret A Manger hopes to include more paper packaging types, and compost kitchen food waste.

Starbucks & Action Carting Environmental Services Inc. Conduct 86-Store Paper Cup Recycling Pilot in New York City

Starbucks Coffee Company, with Action Carting Environmental Services Inc., conducted a paper cup recycling pilot program at 86 of its New York City stores this fall. The pilot leveraged a recycling model developed through Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery, of which Starbucks and Action Carting are members.

Pratt Institute Develops Prototype Messaging & Bins to Incorporate Food Packaging Recycling

Informed by the Starbucks test, Pratt Institute developed prototype bins and educational strategies which were piloted at The New School in the Spring of 2010. The consumer education strategies tested included: educational posters, table top informational toys, and completely redesigned trash, plastic bottle/aluminum can/glass bottle, mixed paper, and paper cup bins with lollipop eye-level signage.

Duro Bag's Prototype Paper Bin Liner Passes Recyclability Lab Tests & Demonstrated at CoRR Meeting

Duro Bag has developed a paper bin liner for the collection and recycling of spent paper food packaging with Old Corrugated Cardboard. The bag and its contents would be bailed with OCC and sent directly to the paper mill without sorting. At the March CoRR meeting, Duro bag demonstrated the prototype. In April, the bin liner passed the recyclability and reputability tests conducted by Western Michigan University.

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