Steve Scauzillo: Starbucks now asks `Paper or plastic?’
Carol Keefer likes her Starbucks soy mocha with whip.
But after finishing the delectable coffee beverage, she feels guilty about tossing the paper cup in the trash because it messes with the environment, not to mention her conscience.
Well, Keefer doesn’t have to feel guilty anymore. On Friday, she ordered her coffee drink at the Irwindale Starbucks in a sturdy plastic cup, which she can return next time and have it re-filled. Starbucks will even rinse it in hot water and give her a 10-cent discount each time.
Other users are reporting the cup can withstand about 30 runs through the dishwasher. And according to the barista I spoke with, it can be recycled. “Take it down the street to that recycling center,” she said, referring to Allan Company, 14618 Arrow Highway.
The whole program is new. It was rolled out Thursday by the coffee-giant and is getting high marks from customers.
“Yeah. I hated having to throw those cups out every time. So, this is cool,” said Keefer, showing me the plastic cup before the manager threw me off the premises.
Starbucks, according to their website, wants to reduce its mountain of paper cups by selling more coffee in reusable plastic cups. Something about reducing their carbon footprint, a noble goal indeed.
Let’s look at the numbers.
The Seattle-based coffee chain, the world’s largest coffee shop operator according to Bloomberg, produces about 4 billion cups each year across the globe. Can you say landfill crisis?
The company hopes the reusable cup will raise the percentage of sales in non-throwaway containers to 5 percent by 2015, from 1.9 percent in 2011, Bloomberg reported.
Already, sales of coffee in the reusable plastic cups went up 26 percent in test-market stores in the Pacific Northwest in November compared to the previous November, according to company spokesperson Jim Hanna.
For customer John Ceyla of West Covina, the promotion is nothing new. He admits to owning “about 15” Starbucks travel mugs that he hands to the barista for a new fill up (well, not all at once!) every morning. Lately, he’s partial to the stainless steel variety.
“I don’t like the paper cups because the coffee gets cold too quickly,” he said in between sips from his well-used silver and black tumbler.
I’m going to ask the barista to put my grande skinny vanilla latte in one of those reusable cups next time, I said to myself.
I repeated my good intentions to Sara Vida, who was sitting in a darkened corner tapping away on her laptop. She agreed the reusable plastic cup was worth trying.
“It relieves waste. And it makes people more aware. The more trash we are creating the more we are dumping into the landfill,” Vida said.
See, that manager should hire me, not toss me. In a few short conversations, I made customers cognizant of the chain’s green promotion, something for which I did not see a sign anywhere.
Nine out of 10 customers didn’t know about the plastic cups until I told them.
But assuming they know now, will they remember next time?
Ah, that’s the rub.
It’s one thing to market the heck out of a green idea. Why? Well, it boosts the company’s image and it may help the environment, too.
But it will only work if the customer remembers to bring back the plastic cup. Acting green means altering our habits, even impulsive acts like stopping for a soy mocha latte at the Starbucks drive-thru.
For example, how many times have I forgotten to bring my cloth bags into the supermarket or the Trader Joe’s? I’m ashamed to say it’s about 50 percent. It’s still not ingrained.
If the store is located in an unincorporated part of the county, you must go bagless. There is no paper or plastic choice; you must bring cloth bags, period. (I know from personal experience).
Some ladies said they aren’t going to remember to carry their Starbucks cup. Besides, it won’t fit in their purse. And us guys, we can barely remember our car keys.
“That is the hardest part. Thinking about it,” Vida said.
Being green takes effort. Do I hear a New Year’s resolution in the making?