By Larraine Roulston:
Today’s youth are amazing! In Calgary, Alberta, two 6thgrade students, Mya Chau and Eve Helman, launched a petition after their science project revealed the shocking statistics regarding discarded beverage cups. The girls decided to act and stated, “In Canada alone, over 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away each year. We urge Starbucks to lead the way towards a more sustainable future. We ask them to please develop a cup that can be recycled across North America and around the world.” They challenged Starbucks, in particular, as the company had promised to create sustainable cups by 2015, but unconscionably did not follow through.
Mya and Eve’s survey of 164 people indicated that, on average, each person discarded 155 disposable cups annually. Their research found that, worldwide, 430 billion disposable cups are tossed away each year, which translates to about 140,000 every second. Most people believe that paper cups are either recyclable or can be composted. However, disposable cups are lined with a layer of polyethylene plastic, making them impossible to be mixed in with regular paper and a nuisance to compost.
Currently, 90% of the paper stock used in each cup is manufactured from virgin trees. The girls requested that Starbucks manufacture their cups from 100% recycled paper. As well, they noticed that nearly all sit-down customers use disposable cups. They would like to see the company create ways to encourage more of its customers to opt for reusable mugs. Presently, this coffee chain offers a 10-cent discount to customers who provide their own mug; however, the Starbucks that I visited posted no signs advertising this information. What’s more, I received no mention that I received a discount upon presenting my stainless steel cup.
Chau and Helman’s efforts contributed greatly to this global campaign by receiving almost 300,000 signatures asking Starbucks to lead by example. It also garnered the support of environmental groups as well as several prominent individuals who presented their own petitions alongside the girls’ petition at Starbucks’ 2018 annual shareholders’ meeting held on March 21 in Seattle. In total, over 884,000 signatures were presented. Starbucks announced a commitment of $10 million to develop recyclable, compostable cups over the next three years. The girls also inquired about what more could be done.
Starbucks’ senior communications manager, Tim Gallant, responded in a newspaper interview: “Our Starbucks hot cup actually is recyclable where supporting recycling infrastructure exists. Starbucks cups are some of the most recyclable in the industry and we are proud of the work we’ve done to make them greener.” He also noted that they are the first UK coffee chain to initiate a charge on takeaway cups.
Our habits would change if …
– a cookie were given to those carrying their own mug;
– staff announced, “Free beverage to those who bring in their own cup this week!”;
– reusable mugs were sold along with coupons for 3 free drinks when used for takeout;
– all beverage/food advertisements illustrated reusable cups;
– we saw more people carrying around reusable mugs.
“I do have reasons for hope: our clever brains, the resilience of nature, the indomitable human spirit, and above all the commitment of young people when they’re empowered to take action.” Jane Goodall