Thanks a lot, Howard Schultz.
By George Kite
Staff Trash Collector
People are all too familiar with Starbucks, the largest coffee chain in the world. Wherever you are, there is bound to be a Starbucks nearby. And we are all addicted to it; whether it’s our daily coffee, a quick lunch that isn’t fast food, a frappuccino on a hot day, or you just crave a cup of tea or hot chocolate, you will most likely end up at Starbucks at least once during the week. However, this constant consumption comes at a price: destroying the environment.
Let me preface this by saying that every one of us creates huge amounts of trash. We’re all detriments to the environment. It is physically impossible to live trash free unless you give up civilization. However, that doesn’t make us bad people. Trash is just a product of society; we’ve been making trash since the dawn of human civilization thousands of years ago. It’s just that trash is different now, mainly because of one thing: plastic.
Plastic is perhaps one of the best inventions of the 20th century. It is durable, waterproof, lightweight, can be molded into any form, is easy to make, and is incredibly cheap. It is everywhere: toys, medical devices, cars, furniture, clothes, packaging, and most significantly, bottles and cups.
I was fortunate to be part of the 2019 Fordham Garbology Project, which was conducted through Fordham’s anthropology department. Garbology is the academic study of modern trash, and this year I went through many of the garbage cans along Rose Hill’s sidewalks, and let me tell you something: Starbucks was everywhere.
Plastic cups with fruity refreshers, iced coffees, iced teas, and Frappuccino were in nearly every single trash can. Paper cups, straws, plastic wrappers, and paper bags were in there too. But, I was most disappointed with all of the plastic cups. It felt awful knowing that Starbucks produced so much trash, whether it be the Starbucks in Dealy or the one right outside on Fordham Road.
I will say that although these cups are a great waste, they were going to be recycled. Fordham pays to have their trash sorted for recyclable material, so you would see many of those plastic cups recycled, though the paper cups will not be recycled, although paper is biodegradable. While, Fordham does take care to recycle, though our recycling can always improve.
But the sheer amount of trash from Starbucks was also of no surprise. At numerous points in the day, typically before classes begin and after they end, Starbucks is swarmed with people, sometimes with the line going out the door. I too am part of this; I go to Starbucks quite often, whether it is for lunch or if I’m craving a Frappuccino. It’s no wonder that Starbucks is valued around $14 billion.
We are all aware of the environmental hazards that plastic causes. We have all seen the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the six-pack rings stuck on aquatic animals, and the plastic bags blowing in the trees. Bringing your own Starbucks cup can help reduce that plastic use. However, I also acknowledge that we live busy lives and sometimes it just isn’t convenient, or even possible, to be environmentally friendly. It isn’t plausible to have our reusable Starbucks cup on us at all times.
I believe that ditching plastic, though very difficult, must happen. While it’s good to ditch plastic ourselves, the ultimate responsibility goes to the companies and corporations that use a great amount of plastic, namely Starbucks. I believe that Starbucks should switch their regular plastic cups to be make out of biodegradable plastic in order to further prevent environmental harm. This would solve many of the garbage issues in a top-down method.
Now, I recognize that Starbucks, as a private corporation, can do whatever they please with their products. I recognize that yes; it is cheaper to have regular plastic cups instead of biodegradable cups. I recognize that people are still going to go to Starbucks regardless of whether or not they are environmentally conscious.
However, Starbucks does not really have a good excuse for not being environmentally conscious and using biodegradable plastic. Starbucks can easily afford switching to biodegradable to cups; it might even become more popular, as environmentally conscious products have more appeal than regular ones. The amount of waste that Starbucks puts out would be greatly minimized by utilizing biodegradable plastic. Many places do not sort through their trash to get extra recycling, and some don’t have recycling bins at all. Starbucks could ensure, and maybe even create a precedent, for biodegradable plastic and environmentally friendly policies.
We, as consumers of Starbucks, should make it clear that the environment matters to us; and that although we cannot stop the fact that we will make trash, that our trash should be environmentally conscious. Change needs to not only happen in our actions, but in the actions of corporations as well.