Tully's may be serving up lattes in new compostable cups up and down the West Coast, but ensuring these cups break down here is complicated because they don't meet the standards of Cedar Grove Composting, which handles all of Seattle's organic scraps. Cedar Grove is still taking them in-- they're just separating out all of the commercial loads that contain Tully's cups from everything else.
The issue is timing. Tully's cups meet national standards for composting in which most municipalities allow six months or more for material to break down. The concern here is that the coffee cups will muck up the expedited process at Cedar Grove, which typically takes about 74 days.
Susan Thoman, director of marketing and business development at the composter, says Cedar Grove agreed to participate in a pilot project with Tully's to separate the cups and study them because it's an opportunity to learn more about the product. (The cups, called ecotainers, are lined with a corn-based resin instead of petroleum.) However, says Thoman, the ultimate goal is to be able to send the cups through their system. Tully's doesn't currently pay extra for the special treatment. The hope is if Cedar Grove can't find a way to work the cups in, Tully's will find a cup that works.
Ali Hummels, retail marketing manager at Tully's says that as "pioneers" in this endeavor they expected a few hiccups along the way. She says Seattle has the most stringent standards of all the cities their stores are in. "Ecotainer is determined to make the necessary adjustments to ensure these cups meet Cedar Grove's composting requirements," Hummels says.
The other wrinkle, is that no Tully's cups (or any coffee cups for that matter), are currently accepted in Cedar Grove's residential composting. It's simply too hard to separate them out. So be aware coffee drinkers. Enjoy your latte in its ecotainer, but if you want it to return to the earth, be sure to toss it in a Tully's bin!