In the coffee industry, 500 billion or so disposable cups are used industry-wide every year with only a small percentage recycled, according to Jim Hanna, Starbucks’s director of environmental impact.
In the On Earth article "Meet the Change Makers: Starbucks's Quest for a Better Cup," journalist Adam Aston interviews Hanna and writes about Starbucks' pledge to have cup recycling available in all of its North American outlets by 2015.
The article poses the question: To lower its paper consumption, is a coffee chain’s most effective option to steer customers toward re-usable cups?
Aston writes: "On March 21, Starbucks released its 2011 Global Responsibility Report, documenting both its progress and ongoing challenges. Recycling efforts made gains: the share of North American stores that can recycle hot cups has more than tripled since 2010 to 18 percent. Yet the push to avoid paper use, by spurring more consumers to use tumblers or in-store ceramic mugs, saw almost no improvement."
A visit to some Millbrae coffee chains this morning proves that most coffee drinkers prefer the convenience of having a paper cup when they want it and may not always want the hassle of handling and cleaning their own mug.
Susan Lee at at 513 Broadway Avenue told this Patch editor this morning it's easier to grab her coffee to go in the paper cups that Starbucks offers than bringing her own tumbler.
"I'll recycle it when done drinking, but it's more convenient to get my coffee in their paper cups because I seem to always forget my own mug at home," she said.
John Heath, on the other hand, doesn't leave home without his stainless steel re-usable mug. Sitting inside on the corner of Broadway Avenue and Hillcrest Boulevard on a rainy Tuesday morning, Heath says that he's "doing what I can to not be a part of a disposable culture."
"When I use my own mug," he said, "I don't have to worry about finding a receptacle to recycle it when I leave the cafe because once you step outside this place, your chances of finding a recycling bin becomes that much less."
Jeannine Ronzani at in the Friendship Plaza on El Camino tries to order her coffee every morning "for here," she says, "so I don't have to use a to-go paper cup. A latte tastes so much better in a porcelain mug anyway."
"If you slow down and enjoy your coffee here, instead of rushing off with it to-go, the issue of paper versus reusable becomes a non-issue."
If Ronzani had to take it to-go, "I'd opt to use their paper cups and then recycle it. It's just easier than worrying about having your own mug all the time," she said.
Millbrae Patch wants to hear from you. Do you bring your own mug to your favorite coffee house or are you hooked on the paper cups your coffee comes in? Take the poll below and tell us your opinion in the "Comments" section.