Throwaway Culture: “The Environmental Cost of Coffee To Go”
Just a few days ago, a working barista and certified snark left the following update on her Facebook page:
Woo hoo! All ten people sitting in the cafe drinking out of to go cups. You’re sooo green, Seattle!
This dovetails with a really fascinating report released today by the Guardian UK, on the wastefulness of “to go” culture in England. Their most interesting finding sees the combined throwaway waste of megacorps Pret A Manger, Caffe Nero, Costa Coffee and Eat at more than 500 million paper cups a year. Perhaps even more disturbing:
There are no regulations determining what materials they use or how they dispose of any of it. So they do what they like – which turns out to vary wildly. One reason may be that three different government departments are in charge of waste management. The communities secretary is responsible for local rubbish collection via the councils, the environment secretary for waste policy and recycling targets, and the energy and climate change secretary the aspect of, well, tackling climate change. Wrap, the waste-management quango, sits in the middle, saying it has “no current plans” to tackle this.
While recycling as a cultural norm in the UK has come a long way in recent years, like much of the United States, it still has miles left to go. Most of these chains included in the study do not provide recylcable to-go cups, and only one, Pret A Manger, currently offers recylcing to its customers. Starbucks is currently in the testing phase with their US recycling program.
It bears mentioning: in our personal experience, and to offer only one example, companies like Stumptown Coffee offer recyclable lids, compostable cups, make recycling / composting available to customers, and promote ceramic cups “for here” (along with offering discounts for guests with personal mugs / tumblers). Stumptown is by no means the only fine purveyor of coffee offering these practices, but it’s something we’d love to see become more commonplace in the industry.