The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

July 17, 2012

Starbucks Trash: Behind the Scenes

Last week, I received an email from a new Starbucks employee who was shocked by the amount of waste she sees at the store everyday. Many of us do our individual part by bringing our reusable mugs for coffee, but it turns out that, according to this employee (who wants to remain anonymous to keep her job), the waste goes much deeper. I asked if I could share her rant here with you all. I’m not sure how to get Starbucks to clean up its act, but maybe you guys have some suggestions.


Jul 12 (5 days ago)

To: Beth Terry
From: [name withheld]

Message:

I recently started working at Starbucks, which sells itself as an eco-friendly, green company to the general public. Since I began work there, I have been disgusted every day with the amount of waste, not only of cups, lids, straws, and hot drink sleeves, but also by the packaging of many things that are used in the store every day.  Many things which we sell come  packaged individually wrapped, in a box of five (like our VIA drinks, which are meant to be used as a shake-in flavor for your basic plastic water bottle). That box of five though, is then packed with maybe…7 other boxes of five in a cardboard box (which wouldn’t be so bad if we even attempted to recycle that). That cardboard box is then packed into another cardboard box which contains maybe 9 more like it. By the time this VIA drink reaches you (only to be poured into a plastic water bottle) it has been individually wrapped and packaged into THREE separate boxes like a set of nesting dolls.

Another thing I want to bring to the attention of the public is the fact that while, yes, our cups are recyclable, the percentage of cups that actually get recycled is disgustingly low. While one may assume that anyone can and will take their cup with them and choose to recycle it at another location, how about the large amount of cups that are thrown out right in our own store? Through any given day we will have thousands upon thousands of cups used and thrown out IN-STORE across the country. Does Starbucks offer any sort of on-site recycling though? Not to my knowledge, not [in my state].

Then you might consider how many cups go to waste in the store before they even meet a customers mouth. Any time a new barista is being trained, they will go through countless cups (and even drinks-how much milk can we pour down the drain before we stop to think about the starving people around the world) to learn the new drinks. Any time a drink is made, you can bet that a new cup is being used to measure out the ingredients (those lines on the sides of the cups aren’t there for looks) and any time a drink is mis-made, the whole thing is  tossed, including the cup. Any time something splashes up on a stack of cups (like mocha syrup or coffee)the entire stack is tossed out, and the same goes for lids.

Another waste of cups, and this one ESPECIALLY gets me, is when a customer believes that they ARE being green, using a reusable cup, and they are still wasting the disposable cup. The fact is, if you order it through the drive through, they are going to make the drink LONG before your precious plastic tumbler gets to the barista, they simply take your cup and throw the drink into it from the plastic cup it was made in, and toss that.  If you come inside with your reusable cup, you might have a better chance of being green, but still probably not. Only if you order a tea or a coffee with this stop your barista from using the disposable cups to measure out the ingredients for your drink. The fact is, even if they wanted to, only half of the starbucks produced reusable cups they market as “green” will even FIT under the espresso spout.

This list only skims the surface of waste that starbucks creates each day.  My goal in writing this to you is to get the picture across to a much larger pool of people how un-green the company is. I hope that if we draw enough attention to it, then maybe we can get the company to install recycling bins at each store to at least REDUCE the amount of waste that created each day. A larger response from the public concerning the huge amount of waste created is definitely something that the Starbucks company will at least want to APPEAR to care about, and I am confident that we would see a change.

Thank you for your time and your commitment to educating people about our earths needs.

[Starbucks employee]


One of my pet peeves with Starbucks is that they don’t even offer durable cups for people who are drinking their coffee in the store. Other cafes do. Peet’s, for example, has reusable mugs for patrons who ask for them. And if the reusable mugs that Starbucks sells won’t even fit under the espresso spout, then Starbucks is obviously not even trying to reduce disposable cup waste.

Here’s what Starbucks says about its waste reduction efforts (https://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/environment/recycling): “Customers enjoying their beverage in-store can also request that it be served in a ceramic mug where available.” I haven’t seen ceramic mugs at Starbucks (besides those offered for sale.) Have you?

Here’s a link to write the company if you feel inspired:  https://customerservice.starbucks.com/app/contact/ask/

What do you think is the best way to get their attention?  (Boycotting won’t help if you are not a Starbucks customer in the first place.)

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Raven
3 years ago

Just read this old article, and sadly it is even worse now (2018). This is one of the reasons I couldn’t enjoy working for the company.

In this year (2018) I have witnessed:
-Coffee grounds dumped into the recycling bin DAILY because my store in downtown PORTLAMD, OREGON didn’t compost. They just threw it into the recycling with the milk jugs!
-All pastries (as in literally everything you order there or see in the case, including breakfast sandwiches) comes wrapped in plastic. Individually wrapped in plastic. Then they open every single one and display it in the case so that the customer has the illusion that it is fresh.
-In an effort to promote #skipthestraw for theo the of April (Earth month) I asked to put a little printout by the registers with reusable straws, to raise awareness in a way that still made it about them making sales. They said no. That wasn’t “Siren’s Eye” – their term for how the store should look.
-They still waste these training cups. Entire sleeves, lids, and straws just to retrain each person. So at Christmas when they hire multiple people, every single one of those people is trained individually with all that waste. Making drink after practice drink just to throw all the plastic into the garbage and do it again. They should have designated”training cups”.

They don’t seem to care. I noticed that my manager was so brain washed by the Sbux culture. She told me about a protest in Seattle at the headquarters (complete with former employees wearing cup monster costumes made of Starbucks cups from the ocean) and my manager stood behind the CEO in saying that Sbux cups in the ocean aren’t their responsibility. That once they leave the store it is up to the consumer to recycle. You know, in Portland, OR coffee lids aren’t recyclable. They are too small. So even if the consumer recycled, it would be tossed in the garage anyway.

Anonymous
3 years ago

I work at Starbucks corporate headquarters and have visited hundreds of stores. There are “for here” cups available. Just ask.

Lavender
5 years ago

Hi, I have more to say on the matter being a current employee at Starbucks. Today I was convulsed at how we just throw everything away to the dumpster. There is something else that needs to be considered besides the cup we deliver the drinks in, it’s the milk jugs we go through every day. I know we go through more than 150 gallons of milk a week. For statistics let say we use 150 gallons of milk, and multiple that but weeks in the year and then but how many Starbucks there are, 166,654,800 Plastic gallons in just one year! And how long have they been open? Give or take but that’s outrageous! II’m not even counting the plastic wastes from the cups or packaging.. I’m not sure why we can’t have a separate trash can to through out plastic in but something has to be done. I hate throwing them away and I think about it all the time and I hate that I can’t do anything about it. I’d also like to add that my store in particular now has the blue bags for recycling but our store is yet set up for it to be recycled so that is still being thrown out.

blazeaglory
7 years ago

I ride my bike for transportation and for the last few weeks I have watched the Starbucks plastic cups accumulate at the local bus stop 15 feet from the Starbucks. The bus stop does not have a trash can for some reason. The plastic cups have been there since I have noticed them 3 weeks ago and have accumulated to the point of roughly 23 (I counted them because I finally stopped and picked them all up)…

Anyways, I went in the store to throw them away and I kindly asked the “barista” if as a courtesy they could have an employee spend 3 minutes every few days and pick up the cups. She rudely cut me off and in a loud voice stated “ITS NOT STARBUCKS RESPONSIBILITY SIR!”. I kindly replied to her that Starbucks is the root cause of the trash and regardless its all of our problem as human beings living in a shared environment, it should even have to be defensive, I was not trying to point fingers. Her response was “CALL THE CITY”. I asked why couldnt an employee while cleaning tables outside walk 20 steps with a bag and pick it up? It doesnt matter if its “not Starbucks problem”, we live in a shared environment and its not that difficult to spend 5 minutes every few days to clean it up.

She just kept repeating call the city over and over again.

I understand that technically it isnt Starbucks responsibility because it isnt on their property but they are the root cause and the trash is generated from that Starbucks. I mean, if the manager had any sense, even as a thoughtful person who cares about plastic polluting our environment, he could have one of his employees take care of it once in a while. It doesnt matter who is “responsible”, it came from your store so be a good soul and CLEAN IT UP.

EcoM8s
7 years ago

Thanks for sharing! I finally got my mother to buy an insulated stainless steel bottle for her morning coffee. When I showed her pictures and articles of trash from bins, beaches, etc. and told her that she throws away over 300 styrofoam cups a year and the fact that its toxic too seemed to resound with her, finally. We all need to encourage our friends and family to think about their waste.

Sarah
8 years ago

Wow that is disgusting. I am glad I do not usually drink coffee now.

Natalie
8 years ago

I just did my first year of college in the UK, and almost all Starbucks there have reusable ceramic mugs as the automatic for people not getting it to-go. When I first saw this I was utterly amazed, but coming back to the US it’s disappointing. They even have cute little espresso cups. The one place I was unable to get a real mug was near Oxford Circus in London, one of the most busy tourist spots (also, I think it was a new location, so maybe they’ve changed). Obviously, this doesn’t cut down the waste behind the scenes, but it certainly saves a lot of paper cups and plastic lids!

dbboley
8 years ago

I always order mine in a “here” cup. you just ask for them. They have them.

Beth Terry
8 years ago
Reply to  dbboley

Some Starbucks do but not all. Last summer when I was in New York City, I checked in several different Starbucks, and none of them had “for here” cups.

ptfe cartridges
8 years ago

Thanks for share.There is so much to know about energy, our environment, space, color and furnishing.

burberry iphone 5 case
8 years ago

I cannot WAIT to read more of this. I mean, you just know so much about this. So much of it Ive never even thought of. You sure did put a new twist on something that Ive heard so much about.

Public Tenders
8 years ago

Today i read this post and i really happy after to read this post because it is very great tips for me. Such a great work in this post………

DoesLesmeanMore
8 years ago

While I like the idea that Starbucks has paper cups, whats sad is the plastic cold drink cups they use. I don’t know why Starbucks and some other big name fast food stores don;t stop this use of plastic cups and stick with the paper. engineeringarecycablesociety@blogspot.com

Marguerite
9 years ago

I live in Virginia. The local Starbucks has ‘for here’ mugs and glasses available upon request, and has the mugs displayed with a sign that says “ask for a for here mug.” This summer, they put in a trashcan with both a recyclable and non recyclable option, with what materials are recyclable clearly illustrated on the lid. While this is only one can, and only inside the store, I know that the recycled side is emptied much more often than the waste side. Which is better than nothing. I think it also makes us consumers more aware of how much we doom to the landfill that could be recycled instead.

TravisSelf
9 years ago

Try a KeepCup. These are reusable cups that are “Barista Standard.” They should fit under any Starbucks machine.

KeepCup.com

Beth Terry
9 years ago
Reply to  TravisSelf

I’m sure they would reduce a lot of waste. It’s just too bad they are made from plastic. And the website doesn’t even say what kind of plastic. Plastics contain many other additives besides BPA.

TravisSelf
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth Terry

Hi Beth! According to the box it came in, it is made from polypropylene (which it goes onto describe as the safe food grade plastic). Is that true based on your research, or is that just part of the marketing sizzle?

Ann
9 years ago

Starbucks will only use a durable cup IF IT IS ONE THEY HAVE SOLD. Don’t expect to get the ceramic cup your daughter made filled there.

Beth Terry
9 years ago
Reply to  Ann

Actually, I’ve never had a problem getting any mug filled that I present them with. The problem is that they don’t provide “for here” mugs at every store. I was just in NYC last weekend and visited 3 different Starbucks stores in the Hells Kitchen area, and not a single one of them had “for here” mugs, no matter what they might claim on their site. The other problem is that some of the stores will fill a disposable cup first and then dump that into your reusable mug. But I’ve never had them refuse to fill a reusable mug that they didn’t sell.

Joji
9 years ago

Thank you Beth, it was an interesting (but depressing) post.

I believe in recycling (although I also think it doesn’t completely make up for using so much plastics in the first place).
I believe the companies like Starbucks or McDonalds will actually do it only if it makes economical sense to them (or at least if it doesn’t cost them too much money)
I think it works only for a few companies (Coca-Cola, Danone…)

For the food containers for example, a good recycling system requires:
– making containers that are easily recyclable in the first place
– separate bins (for at least paper & plastics, possibly more)
– having people use those bins properly
– collecting and conveying those to plants where they can be recycled properly
– subsidizing those recycling plants, and in return getting recycled raw materials to make new containers

And I think it is difficult to meet all those together.

The waste collection system varies by country (and sometimes even by city in those countries). The Starbucks stores I went to Japan had separate bins for plastics, paper, compost, food&beverage waste. But in some cities, paper & plastic wastes are collected together.
Does that mean that Starbucks should have their own waste collection trucks? That would be way too expensive.

And it is (mostly?) about how environmentally responsible people are in the country you live in. In Hong Kong, I am shocked to see how poorly people sort their trash (if at all). I don’t think putting the right bins and signs in stores will change much if you don’t educate people first.

In the end, I think it is part Starbuck’s fault, but also part ours.

Kate
9 years ago

I usually avoid Starbucks, but I know that, at least in Switzerland and Germany, they serve hot beverages in ceramic cups unless you order for take away.

Divebunnie
9 years ago

Surely having recycled glass measuring jugs for making the drinks would make sense? It is often green in colour too.. perfect for Starbucks’ branding.

That way they could ensure that it was freshly washed for each coffee, not contaminated, and then pour the drink into customers’ reusable cups whatever their size.

And for training, they can be used again and again and again.

Or is that just too simple?

Maureen
9 years ago

I used to work next door to a Starbucks and would pop in for an iced tea every now and then. At that time (2009), they offered refills on the tea for around .50cents and ALWAYS used the original cup. Then one day, I presented the cup for refill and they said they’d have to toss it and use a new one. I was pretty shocked and asked why and they said it would be a health code violations otherwise. Seriously?! Now that I’m plastic-aware, I avoid Starbucks big time. However, a person who tries to carry along reusable everything, I recently had a run in at Whole Foods. I tend to buy lots of things in bulk and bring my own cloth bags and was told I would not be permitted to do so anymore because of the health code. This pisses me off to no end. I keep those bags very clean (duh, I’m eating out of them).

Saltwater
9 years ago
Reply to  Maureen

Seriously? In what state are you located, if you feel comfortable sharing? Our Whole Foods (we shop at the Interbay Seattle location) has cloth bags that they sell there for you to use with the produce and bulk food items. I use them all the time, I never use plastic anymore. I feel like the person who told you this must be one of those employees who thinks they know the health code but actually doesn’t. I’ve heard enough stuff like this that I’m going to research the health code for Washington. Oh hey! interbaywfm, do you guys know anything about this kind of policy?

kario
9 years ago

I think that it’s important for Starbucks to know that people are watching. I have an espresso machine at home which I use religiously but a few months ago it started acting up. While it was being repaired, I stopped at my local Starbucks every morning for my latte (which, living in Seattle, means it is a truly local business for me). After the first few days something occurred to me – I’m betting that Starbucks doesn’t use organic (non-rBst) milk. Sure enough, I checked the website, and their milk is not something I would normally use at home or feed to my family. When I left a note on their website over six weeks ago, I have yet to receive a response. When I asked an employee, she shrugged her shoulders and said she figured it was way too expensive. Starbucks has shown themselves to be responsive to customer pressure, so I say we bring it on and help educate them that their customers want a truly green company!

Tracey TieF
9 years ago

@awakeatheart
“There’s no reason starbucks can’t create reusable measuring cups for hot drinks. Though I would place bets that if they did so they’d be made of plastic, just from a breakage standpoint.”

The Second Cup, a Canadian franchise, uses stainless steel measuring cups that they rinse. Easy peasy!

I’ve only been to a Starbucks a few times. I’ve been boycotting them since I found out that they are the official coffee shop of Guantanamo Bay. When I got out a megaphone in Ottawa as part of the Campaign to Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, and read out the allegations, well, they kinda barred me…

awakeatheart
9 years ago

My hub worked for starbucks for 3 years. That meant I was at the store a lot, so I got to learn quite a bit about their practices. The “measuring cup” is one thing that does annoy me, though it’s mostly new people who tend to use them. To say that there’s no other way to do it is just completely false. Cold drinks with multiple parts are measured in a reusable cup that is then quick-washed and used again. There’s no reason starbucks can’t create reusable measuring cups for hot drinks. Though I would place bets that if they did so they’d be made of plastic, just from a breakage standpoint.

The thing that bothered me the most from our local store was that there was NO recycling. This is something that’s currently starting to be implemented front of house on a store by store basis in starbucks around our area (and is entirely based on that local store being able to secure local recycling pickup services), but it doesn’t mean it’s being implemented behind the counter. The sheer amount of plastic milk jugs used and tossed daily was just shocking to me.

Lisa
9 years ago

I read somewhere that Jim Hanna, Sustainability Director at Starbucks, told _The Guardian_ that climate change is threatening the supply chain of arabica coffee beans in the next 10, 20, 30 years. People could use this as even more argument that Starbucks should act more sustainably in its own practices–it makes good business sense.

JenHarper
9 years ago

I have had very positive experiences at my local Starbucks. All the Starbucks that I’ve visited in Maryland and Kentucky offer “For Here” mugs, you just have to know to ask. I use them whenever I forget my own mug. I have also watched them fill my personal cup and they don’t use a paper cup, except for one barista who was new. I mentioned it to the manager (a friend) and she said she’d bring the new girl up to speed. They don’t get absolution for all the junk and waste that they and the customers produce, but, I can, with minimal effort, get my drink without involving any disposable cups.

Emile
9 years ago

This might sound random, but…I think this just shows how front-line employees need to be able to have more of a say in company policy. For instance, my company uses A TON of paper; much of it seems unnecessary. But I have no input whatsoever into how the place is run.

five5seed
9 years ago

Great post, Beth! I visit Starbucks every week just because it’s perfectly between me and my circle of friends who like to meet and knit on Sunday mornings. I always bring my own cup, but cringe whenever the baristas walk by with bags of trash – which seems to happen every hour or so.

I was inspired by this post to start a social media flash mob on Twitter and Facebook. Hope people here will join in! https://fiveseed.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/flash-mob-starbucks/

Hteblav
9 years ago

I’m in the UK & have been to various Starbucks in London & Manchester. I’m always automatically given a ceramic mug when I drink inside as is everyone else.

MagnoliasWest
9 years ago

Wow. Just wow. This is heartbreaking but important to know. Thank you to the brave barista who wrote this…

Love and light,
Sue

conniehealth
9 years ago

I wrote on to them and this is the response that I got back. Starbucks response to me:
Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

Starbucks white paper cups, used for hot beverages, are made of paper fiber and the industry standard liner (low-density polyethylene plastic). The paper provides the rigidity for the cup, while the plastic layer keeps the paper layer intact by protecting it from the hot beverage. This plastic layer also makes the hot beverage cups unrecyclable in most paper recycling systems. We are continually evaluating alternatives to the current plastic coating, and are currently conducting life cycle assessments for bio-based plastics.

Other actions taken by Starbucks to reduce the environmental impacts of our disposable cups include:
Working to eliminate most double-cupping by utilizing corrugated hot beverage sleeves made of 60 percent post-consumer recycled fiber.Offering customers a $0.10 discount when they use their own reusable cups. Customers in the U.S. and Canada took advantage of this offer more than 17 million times in fiscal 2006, keeping 674,000 pounds of paper from going to the landfill.Providing “for here” mugs for customers who choose to enjoy their beverages in-store. Customers enjoying their beverage in-store can also request that it be served in a ceramic mug where available.
For more information, please visit us online at http://www.starbucks.com/responsibility

AfricaInside
9 years ago

WOW. I cant believe that Starbucks does not even bother to recycle. What about NOT going to Starbucks? That seems to be the only real solution. I make my iced tea at home (sportea) and carry it with me wherever I go.

Amy
9 years ago

While we are getting riled up about the waste of cups at Starbucks, let us not forget to question Starbucks other pr campaigns regarding the working conditions of its employees (I would be interested to know what the new employee thinks of the work environment and how this opinion changes over time) Starbucks’ purchase of responsibly produced coffee, and the prices paid to farmers

Starbucks buys over 100 million pounds of coffee each year, yet less than 1% is purchased from coffee farmers who are guaranteed a living wage. – (Global Exchange 2003)

Starbucks insures a lower percentage of its workforce than Wal-Mart – (Starbucks Workers Union no date)

Learn more at

https://www.organicconsumers.org/campaigns/protest-starbucks

Meghan
9 years ago

Thank you for this reminder, Beth and anonymous. I have written to Stbx in the past but did so just again – I DETEST using a personal cup in drive-thru and having them pour a drink out of a paper cup into my cup. That defeats the whole purpose of using a reusable cup in the first place! I’ve seen it at many area stores. In the letter I just wrote I suggested having a specific tumbler to make the “personal cup” drive-thru drinks in or just waiting and using my own cup. I do understand needing to keep the drive-thru efficient but it’s a very frustrating practice.

PaulLexFree
9 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

Good article and good comments. A potential solution to one problem: don’t use the drive-through window. Plus idling at drive-through lines is not environmentally friendly. REMINDER TO SELF: bring my own cup and don’t drive-through.

Meghan
9 years ago
Reply to  PaulLexFree

This was my response from Stbx customer service:

“We measure your beverage in a paper cup first because local health laws prohibit us from pouring coffee directly in to our customers cups. We also do so because measurement of the beverage is essential to Starbucks success, we want you to have your beverage made right and well every time. Thanks for letting us clear that up with you.”

That makes it sound like they do it not just for the drive-thru window but I’m positive I’ve seen them make it directly in my cup inside, so this reply does not make sense…

peaJayFish
9 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

No, you are right, that reply is total nonsense. There are no local health laws against using a consumer’s container anywhere I have ever lived (many, many places) as long as it appears to be clean. At every STBX I have ever been in, they take my cup, no matter how clean, and rinse it with hot water from a machine before making my drink. I usually get just dark roast with soy milk, but even on occassions I have treated myself to a specialty drink, I have watched closely that they make it directly into my cup.

I have long lamented the lack of recycling containers at STBX, it just doesn’t make sense. It would be so easy to provide that! Even here in Pocatelo, Idaho, they would only need one container for cups and lids (better if taken off), for we have combined recycling here (which I’m suspicious of, but that’s a comment for another day).

Laurie
9 years ago

When Starbucks first came to my town many many years ago they did ask if you were staying or going and if staying they gave you a ceramic mug. It has been years since they have done this and honestly I just assumed they did away with the mugs altogether. While I now take my travel mug and use it no matter whether I’m planning to sit down in Starbucks or take it To Go, next time I’ll ask if they can serve me in a ceramic mug instead.

Amy
9 years ago

Here is waste reduction from Starbucks perspective. The report is a bit dated, but is good insight into the corporate thought process.

http://business.edf.org/files/2014/03/starbucks-report-april2000.pdf

Report of theStarbucks Coffee Company/Alliance for Environmental Innovation Joint Task Force

From the Executive Summary
“In August 1996, the Starbucks Coffee Company and the Alliance for EnvironmentalInnovation entered into a partnership to reduce the environmental impacts of servingcoffee in Starbucks retail stores. ………Starbucks is committed to environmental leadership in all aspects of its businesspractices and therefore joined the Alliance for Environmental Innovation in an effort toreduce the specific environmental impacts associated with the use of disposable cups”

Beach babe
9 years ago

Im Very Old fashioned- coming form the end of the Earth (australia/NZ) I wouldnt dream of patronising Star Bucks or any like it. Once and only once to be dissappointed. Coffee is meant to be SERVED in a ceramic cup and bought To you (as in a La carte) To Wait In Line then have some one YELL at you is Not service!! Its American. (sorry thats the way we see it) When I abandoned my Fearsome looking boyfriend at a similar venue- Boost juice ( where smoothys are served) here in Aus- the staff were too scared to call out a Female name at him, and so left the drink on the counter! Any way, back to the issue. We as a society have embraced Conveinence as a given when its not hard to figure out it only multiplies our waste. People spend more time and fuel emmissions sitting in the drive in line- than it wld take to just stop, walk in, order. reduce carbon output (fractionally- but every bit will help) I LOVE walkin to my cafe, waitin as long as it takes and sharing the place with only one or two others.

Claire
9 years ago

I request a mug or glass when I am Starbucks and the baristas comply. Sometimes I feel like they dislike it, but, at least in Washington state ceramic mugs and glasses are available for people who ask.

Caro Price
9 years ago

Thanks to this person for exposing the truth…I’ll definitely think twice before getting another coffee from them.

LightBlue
9 years ago

I was in Mexico City and all of the Starbucks I went to had recycling bins so you could put compostable, organic material, paper, and plastic. I noticed that no one threw anything in the trash. Napkins went into compostable and people took the tops off of their coffees/espressos and put in plastic and the paper cup in the paper bin. But Mexico as a country has a longer history of recycling in public places than the U.S.

Tracey TieF
9 years ago

I’ve been reading all of your comments and am dying to chime in. I manufacture cosmetics, and I package only in metal and glass, preferably that my clients provide. What you need to know as consumers is that behind the scenes – behind everything you buy ready made – is a tragic pile of plastic. That is why the focus of my business is teaching people how to make things themselves. There is always less waste on the back end when you buy ingredients and DIY. Let me reveal to you the tragedy of my waste count. I am using the term tragedy consciously – it is an avoidable, bad thing. Let’s say I order 25 kgs of natural soda. I will repackage it by the kilo in reused jars and bags, so there’s no harm there. But the giant double layer paper bag is shipped to me in a cardboard box lined with 2 plastic bags. For strength? Apparently not because these are the flimsy now banned in China ultra light bags. It’s that way because of perception aesthetics alone. People feel that plastic is “clean” apparently, although to me it’s filthy, and likely contaminated with lead and radioactive particles. So I reuse the flimsy bags to pack excess recycling because they are clear and I would never ever buy plastic recycling bags. And I politely ask my supplier to stop. And they tell me people like it. I am persistent. I am loved. I am worth tens of thousands of dollars to them every year. I got them to agree to refill their jugs at the warehouse. I have, by teaching monthly for them, increased their sales of glass and metal packaging exponentially. But *sigh* the double bagging persists. Another apparently innocent example: I order a case of metal bottles. they are 100% recyclable, 99% recycled aluminum. That saved 14,000 times the energy it would take to make new; so far so good. And they come packed in a corrugated cardboard box. Excellent. Without warning, the manufacturer took out the cardboard separators and replaced them with individual plastic bags inserted over the open tops of every bottle. 20 bottles = 20 bags. So I reuse the bags to package the dry bulk items people order – clays and minerals etc. I donate excess bags to Arts Junktion for educators. But alas, behind every metal bottle is a bag. And back at the warehouse of my supplier, the cases of bottles were in bigger boxes that were wrapped top to bottom on skids with plastic strapping and cling wrap. Interestingly enough, most of that 2% of plastic that is recycled in North America is that violently toxic cling wrap used to secure pallets of stuff. And I am saying all this because I want you to know that there is always a back end to what we are consuming. The supplier could be a freak like me who asks, cajoles, complains and embarasses her suppliers, but ultimately we need our whole society to put its collective foot down. Flimsy plastic bags that are used to keep products “clean” cost billions of dollars worldwide as they clog up machines in recycling and waste processing plants, all the way to clogging sewers and leading to flood damage. This is why China has banned the flimsy bags. Take that in. CHINA HAS BANNED WHAT WE CAN’T SEEM TO GET ENOUGH OF. And I know that waste management here in Toronto would love to get plastic bags out of the waste stream. Virtually every stoppage in the plants is due to bags stuck in the gears and thing-ys. People always say – what is the alternative? I say human beings have existed for tens of thousands of years eating, drinking, storing and trading. Look to what we used before plastic became the norm. It’s not so long ago. Bring back the world of the jelly jar with the crimped metal lid, the crates insulated with saw dust, local manufacturing and the realization that if it came all the way from the other side of the planet it will rightfully cost more. Bring back the knowledge of how to make our own cleaning products and delicious foods! Okay, rant over. Complain persistently and lovingly. Thanks for listening.

Sharyn Dimmick (The Kale Chronicles)
9 years ago
Reply to  Tracey TieF

I am glad you wrote this rant. And I am even gladder that you keep badgering your suppliers to give you more environmentally friendly packaging.

DanielleRichardet
9 years ago

WHOA… this is ridiculous. Though, the more I think about it… I’m not overly shocked about some things. I think that there (obviously) is A LOT of room for improvement. BUT… what is irking me the most is that if people are trying to do the right thing by bringing their own mug… they are completely blind to the fact that Starbucks is creating the trash anyway!! What’s the point of telling people to “BYOM” ?? To appear environmentally conscious?? To make people feel all warm and fuzzy for doing the right thing?? I don’t get it.

Ok… so I don’t frequent Starbucks. The only time I go there is when we’re traveling and there’s nothing else. They do have ceramic mugs… BUT… you have to specifically ask for them. Same goes for a spoon… when asking for a spoon use the term “metal spoon” otherwise you are sure to get single-use plastic. How come they don’t ask, “for ‘here’ or ‘to-go’”?? You answer “here”, you get reusables. How much money could Starbucks save on product and trash service by making a simple change?? (I’d venture to say a lot).

Another thing that isn’t in this post that bothers me is their little honey packets. When I go to Starbucks (which isn’t often because of this), I only get hot green tea (which I should say that, as a “high-end” coffee shop, they should do bulk tea in the paper pouches). Anyway, every time I get a tea there, I do so without honey because those packets are so stupid! Honey is sticky… you’d be lucky to get a half a teaspoon from a packet. Every other place that I have gotten tea from has a little honey carafe (and some even have agave in a squeeze bottle).

Oh, and here’s a pic of the very rare reusable mug at Starbucks ;) https://pro.iconosquare.com/

Mags
9 years ago

I am a coffee addict, and for years bought Starbucks coffee to brew at home (I don’t buy elaborate drinks, or any drinks, in the store). I became frustrated by the enormous stack of plastic coffee bags that I accumulated because they aren’t recyclable. I still have all of them. I finally made the switch to coffee I can get in a compostable paper bag, even though I can’t find a coffee bean that tastes as good as their Gold Coast bold. But I couldn’t justify the bag waste anymore. They don’t seem to do anything to deal with their packaging. I’m glad to be rid of Starbucks, and am not confident they’ll do anything to change their ways.

Sharyn Dimmick (The Kale Chronicles)
9 years ago
Reply to  Mags

I don’t know where you live, Mags, but if you happen to be near a Peet’s coffee, they will scoop beans directly into your own container from their bins: I use an air-tight metal canister to store my coffee.

Becca
9 years ago
Reply to  Mags

Mags (and anyone else with a stash of metallized foil bags), if you email
becca [at] earthlingshandbook [dot] org
I will give you my postal address and you can send me your bags. I am collecting them for a company that will make them into tote bags; I have to have a large amount before I can send them and they’ll reimburse me for postage. If you have really a huge amount, ask me for the address to send them directly to the company.

Our Red House
9 years ago

One of the reasons I believe that Starbucks failed in Australia (apart from the perception of poor quality coffee) was the use of disposable cups. As a general rule, most Australian cafes use ceramic cups and wash them for in-store service, and I think that’s what most people prefer. Unfortunately, like everywhere else, takeaway coffee is usually served in disposable cups unless people bring their own.

Ed
9 years ago
Reply to  Our Red House

Starbucks failed in Australia?? That’s AWESOME!!

EcoCatLady
9 years ago
Reply to  Ed

My thoughts exactly! And I agree that their coffee tastes terrible!

laurawk1
9 years ago

Thanks for posting this. I don’t frequent Starbucks but go there periodically and had more importantly bought many gift cards for others from Starbucks. I’ll definitely be writing to them now. I have been into a few non-name brand coffee shops and cafes where I order an iced coffee in my reusable mug and they make it in a disposable and tell me I can pour it into my mug if I want. They don’t tell me this upfront when I hand them the mug so I can’t stop it – incredibly frustrating! I wonder why they think I want the drink in a reusable mug in the first place?

EcoYogini
9 years ago

You know- in Nova Scotia where it is the LAW to recycle and compost, I have seen a few “for here” mugs being used by people who are sitting and staying to drink. It happens. That said- the Starbucks are hit and miss with their recycling- which is a terrible example of how big corporations can skim under provincial law :(

Jenny Rustemeyer
9 years ago

so frustrating; although, I must admit I’ve had good luck just asking for a ceramic mug to stay.

Michael Smithingtonsworthly
9 years ago

I wrote them a message and made it clear that I won’t be spending my money there without an earnest attempt at change. I’ll let you know if I get a response.

Meechity
9 years ago

@EcoCatLady I commend your attitude to just live away from convenience foods. I personally really like strong Starbucks coffee, it makes me happy, I don’t drink it to medicate. :) I also cold brew my own coffee at home, but the local Starbucks charges me 53 CENTS for a big coffee refill with 2 espresso shots. That’s a score!!

I think because ‘Bucks is so big and SO ingrained in the day to day lives of many people including the very rich and powerful, that adopting efforts to improve its shade of green would have a ripple effect on society. It’s true that a bandaid isn’t going to stop an artery from bleeding, but it’s better than nothing, and Starbucks is here to stay. :( I feel like its a responsibility of us consumers to at least try meekly to staunch the blood flow.

EcoCatLady
9 years ago

This sort of post leaves me with such mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m so glad that there are people looking at this sort of thing and trying to think of ways to improve the status quo. On the other hand, to me this entire topic strikes me as the equivalent of trying to make a healthy brownie or putting a band-aid on an amputation.

I guess from my perspective, the problem isn’t really that Starbucks isn’t green enough, it’s that we live in a crazy culture where a concept as ludicrous as take out coffee can flourish. I realize that I’m operating several standard deviations away from the norm here, but I just can’t help it.

I mean just look at it from a Martian’s perspective for a moment. We live in a society where everybody is overworked and sleep deprived, so we rely on instantly and readily available liquid stimulants in order to keep everything running. And don’t even get me started on the fact that the beans to create this beverage are shipped in from half way around the planet… And what we’re worried about is the fact that the cups aren’t recycled – never mind the fact that recycling them generally entails shipping them half way across the world again…

I dunno… I know my perspective is radical and not likely to catch on, but personally, I’d rather put my efforts into helping a few people open their eyes a bit, and realize that they don’t have to participate in the craziness of our culture which allows places like Starbucks to thrive in the first place. Seems to me that if people just started getting adequate amounts of sleep, and refused to take on such busy schedules where they’re “out and about” all day long and need a quick “pick-me-up,” we’d all be so much better off.

Sorry to rant. I wish you all the best of luck in your efforts to hold Starbucks to their green claims. But since I’ve never set foot in one of their shops, and have no intention of ever doing so, I think I’ll just keep plugging away at trying to change the bigger picture – lofty, impractical and idealistic as that may be.

Emile
9 years ago
Reply to  EcoCatLady

I agree with most of this…although I think a big part of the problem is that, in a lot of places, Starbucks is one of the few places for people to congregate and meet friends other than a bar. This also needs to change.

Saltwater Hollie
9 years ago
Reply to  Emile

I do love the idea of cafes, and don’t think a social gathering place like this is that crazy – but yes the collective caffeine addiction is sort of nuts, and the lack of recycling and horrific waste is simply insane. I had no idea they were wasting a cup to fill my reusable mug, that makes me so sad.

EcoCatLady
9 years ago
Reply to  Emile

I TOTALLY support having places where people can congregate, it’s the whole “take-out” coffee aspect that just mystifies me. I just don’t understand why people want to life life “on the run.”

EcoCatLady
9 years ago
Reply to  EcoCatLady

“live life” that is… I suppose one could try to “life life” but I’m not exactly sure how! :-)

EcoCatLady
9 years ago
Reply to  Emile

Plus… and I promise I’ll stop ranting soon… I fail to understand why we need multi-national corporations to provide us with something as basic as a coffee house. In my mind, a coffee house is (or should be) the quintessential small, locally owned, neighborhood run business.

Clearly, I am in the minority on this one (as I am on most topics that have to do with popular culture,) and that’s pretty much what I would expect. I just chafe against the idea that EVERYTHING must be commercialized and corporatized. Maybe I was just born in the wrong century.

Saltwater
9 years ago
Reply to  EcoCatLady

Well if you’re in the minority I’m with you. I agree, places to congregate are great but the “life on the run” lifestyle just contributes to so much waste and stress. And corporations running everything is nuts.

This whole thing makes me want to start a local earth-friendly coffeehouse, but we’re in Seattle so we’re full of coffeehouses already. :)

Becca
9 years ago
Reply to  EcoCatLady

Great points! I drink a lot of coffee, but I buy to-go coffee only rarely, mostly when traveling, and even then I’m often able to use a travel mug. If I’m out and about, usually it’s possible to take a coffee break in a place that has real mugs, and in fact the pick-me-up is more effective if I take a coffee BREAK rather than trying to walk or drive while slugging back hot liquid! I also feel that the coffee tastes better in a real cup and is more pleasant to drink. If I’m drinking it to stave off a headache, pressing the warm ceramic against my temples and ears helps to adjust the uneven blood circulation in my head that’s causing the pain–a disposable cup doesn’t transmit heat the same way and is more likely to slosh coffee into my hair!

I have lived for 10 years on the same block with a Starbucks–it’s practically in my back yard–and I pass two others in my daily commute, but I never ever go there except on Election Day when they give you a free coffee for voting. It’s easy to boycott because there are so many other places to buy ready-to-drink coffee in my neighborhood; I patronize the local businesses with real cups because they’re local and have real cups! But on those few occasions when I’ve had Starbucks coffee, I’ve found it awfully bitter and burned-tasting.

My boss buys to-go coffee from Starbucks twice a day, every day, and his wastebasket looks like the one pictured in this article! The only good thing I can say about that is, it appears he doesn’t throw away much else….

JayadeepPurushothaman
9 years ago

In India, most of the local coffee(and tea-shops) used to provide steel or ceramic glasses for tea or coffee, but these days even the street side shops in cities use plastic glasses because they are dirt cheap and they can just throw it away. The other problem is there is water scarcity in most Indian cities which prevents them from washing those glasses(steel or ceramic) and re-using it. Water may be far more expensive than plastic cups for them. But the root cause IMO is the urban living which is based on fast-food and eating out most of the time. And plastic is big part of urban living – your lives in cities would stall if they stop producing plastics. I think we are definitely on a downward spiral of destruction of nature so far down the line that we will not be able to arrest with any kind of efforts.

Kirsty Bremner
9 years ago

Down here in texas they have ceramic mugs too. Always a little confused when my Dutch friends and I (Brit) ask for them, but they’re getting used to it.