“War on Disposable Cups”

by Lydia Cap

Every year since 1997, Starbucks has unveiled a new winter-themed cup design at the beginning of the holiday season. This year’s design is a minimalist red ombre, which has lead to uproar on social media with many users calling the cup a "War on Christmas." Here at Return Recycling we are not worried about the design on the cups, but instead about what happens to these cups after they are used.

One of our main goals is to help people recycle more efficiently. Traditional trash/recycling containers are divided into two sections: one for paper and plastics and one for other waste. Empty disposable cups can easily be tossed into the paper/plastic container, but what happens if the cup still has coffee in it? Two options:

  1. Toss the entire cup in the trash - Bad! Goes straight to the landfill.

  2. Recycle the cup and its contents - Bad! Just one semi-full cup of coffee can stain an entire load of recyclable paper, which most recycling carters will not accept. Straight to the landfill again.

Our specially designed bins (check them out here) have separate containers for recycling, compost, landfill, and liquids. Our design creates a new option for coffee cup disposal:

  • Empty leftover coffee into the liquid container, and recycle the coffee cup and lid - Good!

While our bins help prevent disposable cups from reaching landfills, there is still a better solution that prevents these cups from being used in the first place: reusable mugs! Americans use an estimated 25 billion disposable coffee cups per year. And only a small amount of those cups are actually recycled, leading to massive amounts of paper and styrofoam being sent to landfills each year. Regardless of where you purchase your coffee, reusable coffee mugs are a smart investment because they allow both consumers and corporations to save money (Starbucks even offers a discount for customers who bring in their own mugs) all while reducing the amount of waste put into landfills. So next time you visit your favorite coffee shop, remember to bring along your reusable mug and join the “War on Disposable Cups!”