We have a trash problem – and finding solutions to fix it and repair the damage has long been a priority. One of the most opinionated movements aimed directly at reducing single-use waste was the anti-plastic bag movement. It was a long time coming too. Ian Frazier reported in The New Yorker, “In 2014, plastic grocery bags were the seventh most common item collected during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, behind smaller debris such as cigarette butts, plastic straws, and bottle caps.” And in 2014 Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner of New York Department of Sanitation stated that “New Yorkers use and discard a staggering billion single use carry out bags annually.” As a result of similar eye opening statistics cities across the US pushed the movement.
But plastic bags are only one of the forms of environmental degradation. Another hot topic that has been under the watchful eye of conservationists, activists and mindful individuals is the impact of disposable cups. To put things into perspective, if an individual purchases a disposable cup every day, it will create roughly 9 pounds of waste per year. 9 pounds of waste multiplied by 324.2 million citizens (based on 2016 census) is nearly 1.5 million tons of waste annually.
Coffee is the most popular beverage in America, with over 400 million cups consumed per day, so naturally disposable coffee cups contribute to a very large portion of single-use use waste: approximately 30.9 billion disposable cups are thrown away along with 58 billion paper cups (not recycled) every year. Polystyrene (Styrofoam) disposable cups aren’t biodegradable, and neither are most paper cups because they are lined with a petroleum-based polyethylene (PE) coating. Not to mention the lids and straws, which are plastic.
But, there are ways to cut back on waste and it takes everyone to do their part where they can. While in the office, opt for a ceramic mug for your morning coffee and if you’re on the go, try grabbing a tumbler. Your employers can even help by providing sustainable and green options to enjoy your coffee in. Here at Associated (SL), when we’re not using our own ceramic coffee mugs, we prefer to use Karat’s Biodegradable hot cups in our break room. These cups are lined with PLA (polylactic Acid) which is derived from corn and can be composted.
Be sure to support companies that are driving green and sustainable options and keep an eye out for incentives that aim to encourage waste reduction. Did you know that most coffee shops will discount your purchase if you bring your own mug (BYOM)? It’s a nice gesture but more people to take advantage of it. For example, despite Starbucks’ 10 cent incentive to bring your own reusable cup, only 1-2% of their customers take part.
Let’s be excited to make positive changes that will benefit our environment. Your examples may even generate others to follow along.
And don’t forget when you go out to #BYOM.