The Starbucks: Break Free From Plastic coalition protested outside of the Seattle Center during Starbucks’ annual shareholder meeting Mar. 21. Photo courtesy Stand.earth

The Starbucks: Break Free From Plastic coalition protested outside of the Seattle Center during Starbucks’ annual shareholder meeting Mar. 21. Photo courtesy Stand.earth

Environmentalists Urge Starbucks to End Plastic Cup Waste

Grassroots environmental organizations plan to hold the coffee giant to its latest pledge.

How do you mass produce a paper cup for hot beverages that retains a liquid’s heat and prevents leaks without the use of pesky plastic linings, which many municipal waste systems lack the infrastucture to recycle? That’s the quandary that has plagued Starbucks for years without a clear solution.

Starbucks’ plastic waste has drawn the ire of Starbucks: Break Free From Plastics, a coalition spearheaded by grassroots environmental organization Stand.earth. The group demands that Starbucks address its plastic pollution.

And Starbucks is listening, to a degree.

On Tuesday, a day before the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle, the coffee giant announced that it will spend $10 million on a three-year challenge that funds entrepreneurs working on fully-recyclable cup designs. “No one is satisfied with the incremental industry progress made to date, it’s just not moving fast enough. So today, we are declaring a moon shot for sustainability to work together as an industry to bring a fully recyclable and compostable cup to the market, with a three-year ambition,” Colleen Chapman, vice president of Starbucks global social impact overseeing sustainability, wrote in a statement. The company’s research and development team also announced that it is launching a six-month trial of a new bio-liner, which will be tested for its ability to meet safety standards and its affects on the environment.

Still, environmental activists say that they’re not holding their breath, since Starbucks has pledged to redesign its paper cups several times in the past decade, but the company’s promises have largely remained unfulfilled. In 2008, Starbucks said it would create fully recyclable and biodegradable cups by 2015 and that it would sell 25 percent of its drinks in reusable cups in that time. But in fact, a Stand.earth report found that over four billion Starbucks cups end up in landfills each year.

Tired of waiting for action, a slew of environmental activists protested outside of the Seattle Center during the shareholder meeting Wednesday.

“Right now, Starbucks’ paper cups—the iconic white cups—aren’t disposable in every city globally, because of the plastic lining that it has,” said Stand.earth activist Vanessa Tsimoyianis as she walked toward the Seattle Center with a megaphone hanging at her side (as shown in Stand.earth video footage). “Only in a few cities can we actually recycle the cup.” Facing the camera as she clasped her hands, Tsimoyianis urged Starbucks to do away with one-time use lids, straws, and utensils. She also asked that the company design a completely recyclable cup. Walking beside her were Eve and Mya, two 11-year-old girls from Calgary, Canada who collected over 300,000 signatures for a Change.org petition asking Starbucks to reduce its plastic waste. A few people trailing behind them dragged two dollies stacked with green containers that held over 973,000 petition signatures from people calling for an end to Starbuck’s non-recyclable cups.

Protestors dressed as Starbucks cups and plastic waste greeted them at the center, while others recited the call-and-response chant: “When I say ‘Starbucks,’ you say ‘plastic.’ ”

The coalition isn’t planning on letting up on Starbucks until it fulfills its environmental promises.

“Be an industry leader,” Tsimoyianis shouted into the megaphone outside of the Starbucks shareholder meeting Wednesday. “We know that if you change the game, then everybody will follow.”

mhellmann@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, the primary sponsor of SB 5323, speaking on the bill. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Sabio-Howell)
Proposed law adds a fee to plastic bags at checkout

Senate passes bill to ban single-use plastic bags, place 8-cent fee on reusable plastic bags.

Renton Education Association board voted out by union

Union members use their power to remove leaders from office

In November 2019, Washington voters approved Initiative 976, which calls for $30 car tabs. Sound Publishing file photo
Republicans try to guarantee $30 car tabs amid court hangup

Lawmakers sponsor companion bills in the House and Senate.

King County Metro’s battery-electric bus. Photo courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County could bump up Metro electrification deadlines

Transportation generates nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2020 State of the State Address on Tuesday, Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Office of the Governor)
Gov. Inslee delivers State of the State Address

By Leona Vaughn, WNPA News Service OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee stood… Continue reading

A 50-minute film called “Spawning Grounds,” which documents the effort to save a freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish, is finally ready for its debut in North Bend on Jan. 18. (Screenshot from film)
Spawning Grounds: Lake Sammamish kokanee documentary premieres Jan. 18

The film tracks the ‘all hands on deck’ effort to save the little red fish from extinction.

Family, friends of paraplegic man killed in shootout with Federal Way police outraged over his death

Family says the 23-year-old man’s death was “senseless”; accuse police of excessive force and withholding information that the man used a wheelchair.

Meet the group trying to electrify America’s railroads

The Backbone Campaign hopes it will reduce emissions and jump-start depressed communities.

A man works on a balcony at the Cedar Pointe Apartments, a 255 apartment complex for seniors 55+, on Jan. 6, 2020, in Arlington, Washington. (Andy Bronson/The Herald)
Washington state has been under-producing housing units for decades

A new report said there should have been an additional 225,000 units created between 2010 and 2015.

Most Read