I’ve deservedly ranted about Starbucks a lot lately. (See Starbucks: Wasting Up to 6 Million Gallons of Water Every Day and Where Do You Draw the Line?)
Let me ask you and them another question, What about the eco-impact of disposable paper coffee cups? Disposable coffee cups are responsible for the deaths of over 6.5 million trees each year. In 2006 it’s estimated that 16 billion found their way into the trash creating over 250 million pounds of solid waste.
To their credit, in March 2006, Starbucks introduced a new disposable cup containing 10% postconsumer recycled fiber (PCF) content. This however, begs the question, Why only a 10% PCF cup? According to Sustainable is Sexy Blog, Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ Director of Environmental Impact, says, “We may one day see a cup made completely of recycled paper – but the technology needs to catch up first.”
Just like the politicos at FactCheck.org, let’s see if we can find the “real” facts.
Yes, there is not a 100% PCF hot cup, yet. There are vegetable-base 100% biodegradable and compostable hot cups. Interestingly, also in 2006, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters introduced hot and cold to-go cups made out poly-lactic acid (PLA), a polymer derived entirely from natural cornstarches and is 100% renewable on an annual basis. In 2007, Tully’s Coffee Corporation also adopt a fully renewable and compostable paper cup for its hot beverages. Tully’s simultaneously established an in-store collection program to divert the used cups and other compostable food waste from local landfills to organic composting facilities.
(click chart to enlarge)
Starbucks response, “composting just isn’t being done on a global scale” …yet. Why be a leader when you can adopt a let’s wait see policy. Does this fit with Starbucks claims that they have a commitment to “understand environmental issues, to strive to buy, sell and use environmentally-friendly products, and to instill environmental responsibility as a corporate value”?
Hanna goes on to say that the company hopes to increase the number of Bring Your Own Cup (BYOC) customers tenfold by 2010. But he wasn’t ready to share the company’s strategy to make this happen. Sounds a little like a political stump speech.
Instead of platitudes, how about action? There’s no question that a reusable cup is best. Starbucks should:
- Support the Sustainability is Sexy campaign, an environmental organization determined to reduce the negative environmental impact on our planet caused by disposable coffee cups.
- How about avoiding the whole to go cup issue by have their employees ask one simple question every time someone orders – “Is that for here or to go?”
- Switch to a fully renewable and compostable paper cup for its beverages.
- Turn off the water.
- Stop the greenwashing and the hypocrisy.