Thursday, March 12, 2009
Last weekend in NYC we had spring-like temperatures. Everyone stripped off coats and sweaters and headed out of doors. Cold temperatures have returned, but signs of spring have been seen this week-- spring fashions in store windows, Easter candy at Duane Reade...and the annual re-appearance of iced coffee cups.
Crystal clear polypropylene iced beverage cups with matching flat or domed lids and colorful thick long straws: these things didn't exist 15 years ago*, but now they are ubiquitous. Almost all of these cups, lids and straws end up as trash. Polypropylene is #5 plastic, so it is now recyclable through Gimme 5, provided there is a chasing arrows symbol on the cup or lid. It sure would be nice if Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds et al took back the cups for recycling as well. Think about it-- 15 years ago, this waste stream DIDN'T EXIST. And somehow we all muddled through our summers without a throw-away cup of iced coffee or iced tea attached to our hands.
And by the way, these 'disposable' cups, lids and straws don't come cheap. Look at the prices on this retail site, for example. Your average cup with a flat lid and straw runs about $.12, just for the packaging!
Do I want stores to stop selling iced coffee and iced tea? No. That would make them lose a lot of money. Here's my message: Iced beverages taste just as good in re-usable mugs and tumblers as they do in a plastic cup. What's more, many places will give you a discount for bringing your own tumbler, just like they do with hot beverages. I want stores to push re-usable containers for iced beverages, and for consumers to be just as aware of this kind of waste as they are becoming aware of plastic bags and bottles.
*I based my 15 years figure on this article, stating that Dunkin' Donuts introduced iced beverages in 1995. I don't know when clear polyproplene cups were introduced to the market.