Coffee-hounds, I will lead thee to redemption

I’m happily ensconced in my inner-city suburb, the kind of area where we enlightened folk sip on lattes while figuring how to fix the world, right? No, not bloody right. I am sick of the use of disposable coffee cups. that cup that you use for 5 minutes will hang around for up to 5000 years. To state the obvious, your a three-cup-a-day habit will create a one thousand-cup mountain every year! What are you doing? Go get a re-usable keep-cup or take a mug to the coffee shop.
keep cup, reduce coffee cup waste
Some facts (from the US):
* When you purchase one cup of coffee (or tea) in a disposable container every day, you create about 23 lb of waste each year. -Ideal Bite
* About eighteen percent of garbage we produce is composed of disposable containers, of which hot beverage cups represent a large portion.
* Styrofoam cups are the worst culprits, as it never degrades. Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups every ear. Even 500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will be sitting in a landfill somewhere. -The Recycler’s Handbook
* Starbucks just started rolling out new cups that contain 10% recycled paper. (Whoopee). This is not uncommon, recycled paper being a problem in food packaging because of contaminants.
* Over 6.5 million trees were cut down to make 16 billion paper cups used by US consumers in 2006, using 4 billion gallons of water and resulting in 253 million pounds of waste “Paper Cups = Unsustainable Consumption” Feb 6, 2008.
* Paper cups may consume more non-renewable resources than cups made of polystyrene foam# Chris T. Hendrickson, Lester B. Lave, and H. Scott Matthews (2006). Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Goods and Services: An Input-output Approach. Resources for the Future. p. 5

A city of Toronto audit found fast-food waste was in 77% of trash bins and in 260 of the 480 bins. Toronto’s recycling plan allows people to include paper-based takeout coffee cups in curbside recycling because they can be composted. However due to the sheer number of cups the recycling plants simply cannot process cup waste

Which coffee chain is going to take advantage of the HUGE GLARING OPPORTUNITY to lead by actively pushing a re-usable alternative?


4 Responses to “Coffee-hounds, I will lead thee to redemption”

  1. Did you see the Starbucks campaign last year? I believe it was in NYC. They made street art out of the cups and tried to convince their customers to switch. Here is their page:

    and here is a good description:

    Unfortunately I cannot find the commerical anywhere.

    In any rate, greenwashing? They do provide a price incentive, albeit a small one.

    • Thanks for that Robert, actually it does look like Starbucks taking the lead here, to me at least. Sure it’s greenwashing but there was an incentive and they did go beyond imsply that to conceive an attention grabbing stunt to raise awareness further. The last sentence says it all really: Starbucks’ goal is to ensure 100 percent of its cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015. “While our cup has become an integral part of the coffeehouse experience over the years,” says VP of Global Responsibility Ben Packard “it has also become an environmental concern.” I’m not going to argue with that…in fact I’d love to see such statements coming out of the coffee industry here in Australia.

  2. Mark Woodward Says:

    I am not condoning the use of paper cups, but if we do not use paper cups what is the alternative, china mugs, made from china clay, china clay is mined, and leaves huge scars on the landscape, each time a chaina mug is used, it has to be washed using washing up liquid that is going to pollute, and energy used to heat the water, once the china mug is chipped it will have to go to land fill. So i think the gap between using paper cups and china mugs is smaller than it is made out to be. One thing is certain, every paper cup is hygienic, and you do not have to worry about germs left from the last user.
    We must also consider the impulse buy, if there were no paper cups, we would have to keep a china mug in our handbags at all times.

    • I have read a footprint comparison of paper vs china cups and you’re right, the china cups didn’t necessarily win hands down in terms of carbon footprint, but they certainly do in terms of landfill assuming they are reused. Paper cups might or might not be hygeinic depending on how they’re stored…if you use your own cup you control your own hygeine. My view is that if impulse buys are bad for the world, then wait! You’ll live! Personally I travel with a keep-cup in my car and have one at home and in my office. And they will last me a lifetime.

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