A Proposal for Starbucks Coffee

Over the past few months, beverage drinkers, internet browsers, and brands alike have all realized that straw usage is a big problem in our society. In a somewhat out-of-character move, the food industry took action. Since the ‘straw revolution’ has taken place, Starbucks has become aware of their own contributions to the problem and has announced a strawless lid. They solved the problem and my cold beverages will now be enjoyed to an even greater extent. Hot beverages, on the other hand, are a steaming mug of shit.

The Straw’s Problematic Cousin

The disposable coffee cup is horrible for many reasons. (6 billion, in fact.) Though not impossible to recycle, less than 1% of cups — at least in the UK — make it through the recycling process. That leaves us with a big problem. Sea turtles may not be choking on our coffee cups, but our coffee cups are choking the ocean as a whole. A change needs to be put in place.

In fairness, Starbucks realizes this. The company has pledged $10 million to produce a better cup design. Even more recently, they’ve announced a partnership with McDonald’s to combine efforts and produce a recyclable coffee cup. They’ve given themselves three years to do it. Starbucks’ heart is in the right place — and I look forward to using their new design. In the meantime, however, I have a different solution.

A Brief Proposal

I believe the simplest solution to fix the disposable coffee cup is to get rid of it all together. Currently, Starbucks allows customers to bring in their own reusable mugs and will prioritize those whenever possible. This is great, but as I usually order through Starbucks’ app and my travel mug does not travel on its own, I find myself stuck with disposable coffee cups. I’d like to change that.

To buy us all a little more time (and a few more cups of coffee), Starbucks should implement Citi Bike for Coffee Cups.

A small graphic to prove its legitimacy.*

Starbucks should conduct a mug sharing program utilizing their reusable cup. Customers would opt-in to the program via the app and promise to bring their mug back on their next visit. Lost mugs would result in small penalties and returned mugs would be redeemed for extra stars: the addictive metric that Starbucks reminds me of three to four times a week. Returned mugs would go through a thorough cleaning process and would be put back in shops — waiting for the next eco-aware customer to utilize it.

Many customers may regard this as too much of a hassle. Disposable cups are convenient — I’ll give them that. That said, even if only 1% of purchases went through this program, up to 60,000,000 cups could be kept out of our landfills. That’s a lot of coffee.

Technological Implementation

The entrepreneur and tech nerd in me likes to think these things out. Operating a program at this scale would be no small feat, but I do believe there are ways to make it work.

Cups would need to be “checked-out” for a Starbucks to keep track of them. Libraries do this well, but barcodes are ugly, so Starbucks should borrow Facebook’s Messenger ID Tag instead.

The codes would allow mugs to hold a variety of information. At a basic level, Starbucks would be able to keep track of checked out coffee cups. At a higher level, they’d also be able to collect a large amount of customer information, but at the cost of saving our planet, I am happy for Starbucks to track my drink and store history.

A Brief Conclusion

Regardless of whether or not Starbucks implements this plan, their commitment to treating their employees right is admirable. As I was procrastinating on writing this, I happened to listen to an episode of Masters of Scale discussing Starbucks’ constant will to do good in the communities they serve. There are few companies that I’d be bold enough to write to, but their desire to help others makes me think that regardless of whether or not this idea is adopted, another will be. See you tomorrow, Starbucks Coffee.

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