Starbucks's first problem was defining the term recyclable. "Early in the process, we all had a belief that there was going to be some silver-bullet material out there we could magically change our cups to, and it would be recyclable or compostable," says [Jim Hanna, the company's director of environmental impact]...Senge calls this the "happy cup" fallacy. "Everybody gets so excited holding a cup that says biodegradable or compostable," he says, "when the fact is, you're going to dump it in a trash can, and then it goes in a landfill sealed in an airtight bag. That cup will never break down." Hanna notes that for the FTC, which regulates environmental marketing claims, to consider a material worthy of being branded with those famous triple chasing arrows, the majority of the public has to actually have access to recycling facilities. "Once we started understanding the full system, we realized that what our cups are made of is the least important factor."
Fast Company, on how Starbucks has tried to eliminate the biggest source of waste from their stores: