Forget plastic straws, paper cups are now the latest target

The war on plastic straws and the companies who use them has now shifted its focus towards a new target: paper cups.

Starting Monday, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will begin rolling out its ban on paper cups at its U.S. offices, after previously scrapping the cups abroad.

In a statement to FOX Business, the company said its reasoning for the ban is to address climate change and it wants to begin by reducing its own operational impact first.

“Every year, our offices in the region consume more than eight million non-recyclable cups, one million lids and 850,000 straws,” a company spokesperson added.

WeWork also said it currently doesn't use paper cups in any of its U.S. offices and the company is in the midst of phasing out disposable plastic and switching to reusable options.

The move comes after several companies have either banned the use of plastic straws — or are converting to paper straws — following backlash from environmentalists and consumers over the use of plastic straws and its effects on the environment.

It is estimated that up to 390 million single-use plastic straws are used and thrown away every day in the U.S., according to market research firm Freedonia Group, with many of them winding up in the ocean.

In response in recent months, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Brands, and even the city of Seattle announced they are all ditching plastic straws and opting for eco-friendly alternatives, such as paper.

But now paper alternatives are attracting new scrutiny because many of them contain a tightly bonded plastic lining that needs to be separated before the paper can be recycled.

“Just like plastic bags, many people don’t fully understand the detrimental environmental consequence of paper cups. Most cups are coated with a plastic lining for durability. These cannot be recycled because the plastic lining clogs the machinery at the recycle plants; so not only are these wasteful cups not recyclable, they are causing problems at the recycling plants. Plastic never really goes away and small changes in our daily habits are crucial for us to reverse this ever-mounting waste epidemic,” Farzan Dehmoubed, president of Lotus Trolley Bag, a company committed to ending the use of plastic bags, told FOX Business.

The result is that most recyclable paper cups end up in trash cans and landfills. According to a new report by the Paper Cup Recovery & Recycling Group, just one in 25 paper cups actually gets recycled in the U.K.

But many makers of paper cups defend their products and shift the blame toward users who they say are not properly recycling them.

Stefan Pryor, market sector manager for U.K. paper mill James Cropper, told The Wall Street Journal that there is the capability to recycle a paper cup in its current form but the problem is just getting the product to the right paper mills to facilitate it.

This summer, Starbucks made its first move to curb its paper cup use in the U.K. by charging 7 cents more if a customer needed one.  British lawmakers have even proposed an outright ban over the next five years of the use of disposable coffee cups.

Still, little work has been done in the U.S. towards the use of paper cups and making sure they are properly recycled.

In a statement to FOX Business, Dunkin’ Brands said it continues to explore even more sustainable packaging options but it feels the move towards a “paper cup and away from polystyrene was a step in the right direction on this journey.”

Starbucks and McDonald’s did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment on the issue and their plans to curb the use of paper cups.