Monday, August 11, 2014

Starbucks Adjusts Cup Recycling Goals

Americans love their coffee to go and enjoy the convenience of a drive thru or lightening speed service at their local coffee shop. Convenience comes with a cost as those paper cups make their way into a trash can and eventually to a landfill creating mountains of garbage that accumulates over time. Starbucks is attempting to reduce those costs by offering discounts for personal tumblers and selling their own plastic cup for $1.

Even though they had a lofty goal of 25% of all coffee served in plastic reusable containers by 2015 they failed to meet it. Despite missing the mark they did save 2% of all purchases (34 million times) through customers that used reusable containers. This is a total of 1.5 million pounds of waste. 

Their adjusted goal is to have 5% of all coffee served in reusable containers by 2015. Discounts are helpful in bringing this goal to fruition. Starbucks offers a 10 cent discount every time a customer brings in a reusable cup. Purchasing the plastic 1$ cup will allow patrons to start saving in just ten uses without even considering the additional benefits to the environment. 

The technology to recycle paper cups is available but isn’t widespread. In Great Britain a paper cup recovery program has shown that all the fiber in standard polyethylene (PE) coated cups can be recycled into facial and toilet tissues (N.A., 2009). This is great news when we finally make the technology affordable for widespread use.

The problem is that even if the technology is available it isn’t easy for people to find places to pitch recyclable material separate from trash. People on the go that want convenience are also not likely to take the time and effort to separate their items like their more environmentally conscious cousins. At present the reusable containers appear to be the best route. Buy a plastic cup, put it in your car and don’t forget it at home. 

N.A. (2009). Trial proves that paper cups are recyclable. Vending International, 43 (1).

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