By Ashley Phillips
Green Right Now
This month, Starbucks locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland began serving “100% Starbucks Shared Planet and Fairtrade Certified Espresso” to the local clientele –an average of two million people per week. So figure that’s a lot of cappuccino contributing to better wages and working conditions for small-scale farmers.
Starbucks, already the largest producer of fair trade coffee in the world, is making an even bigger promise: In partnership with Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO), the company intends for every espresso-based drink to be Starbucks Fairtrade-certified within the next six month at all Starbucks locations in Europe.
Starbucks Fairtrade Certified Espresso is grown mostly in Latin America, specifically Guatemala, Costa Rica and Peru. Their farming communities will immediately benefit financially from the transition, according to Starbucks, which estimates the switch will contribute over $4 million annually to these smaller farmers.
When it comes to the environment, Starbucks, which ranked 10th on Newsweek’s recent list of America’s top green companies, also is concerned about the cup your coffee arrives in.
While most people assume that Starbucks paper coffee cups are recyclable, this is not entirely true. Only some communities have the ability to recycle them. Most commercial and residential recycling services cannot currently process this form of packaging.
One of Starbucks’ cups it reads, “Your business lets Starbucks do business in a way that’s better for the planet. Like leading the way in cup technology with the first U.S. hot cups made with 10% post-consumer recycled fiber, and cup sleeves that use 60%. Starbucks is working on a cup that’s 100% recyclable too.”
Starbucks has committed to developing a recyclable cup by 2012. In an effort to meet their goal, Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery, has partnered with Starbucks on a pilot recycling program for their cups at seven Starbucks stores in Manhattan.
The objective of this program is to develop a cost-effective mechanism to close the loop on paper packaging, which would in turn, reduce greenhouse gases and help cities divert trash from landfills.
The coffee cups will be collected by the company, Action Carting, at the pilot stores. Pratt Industries will recycle the cups in combination with old corrugated cardboard (OCC), the most extensively recycled material in the United States.
“In addition to the cup design, it’s critical that we address the full product life cycle including the recycling collection infrastructure,” said Jim Hanna, Starbucks director of Environmental Impact in a statement.
In other words, Starbucks can’t operate in a vacuum, but will need recyclers at the ready.
Nor is the issue small potatoes (unless of course it the cups are eventually made by Earth Shell, which uses potato manufacturing waste to make paper cups and bowls.).
According to Global Green USA: “Every year, 58 billion paper cups are used in the US at restaurants, events, and homes. If all paper cups in the U.S. were recycled, 645,000 tons of waste would be diverted from landfills each year.”
That would reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 million tons of CO2, the equivalent of removing 450,000 passenger cars from the road.
The results of the pilot program will be announced in November.
In the meantime, there is a better alternative. In most locations, you can take your Starbucks reusable coffee mug in for a fill up. Not only will you be helping the planet, you will receive a 10 cent discount and your coffee will stay warm longer.
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