Strategically Starbucks: Designing for Waste Streams

Starbucks-Logo As designers of the built environment, what is our role in the often-ambiguous topic of waste stream integration and education? And where should it place on our priority list?

This may not be the most glamorous of topics, but I find it fascinating! Starbucks’ unveiling of its recent logo update brought back to me memories of an impactful lesson I learned as a 2010 GreenBuild Volunteer: How to properly dispose of a Starbucks hot-beverage cup. If you’re unfamiliar with the procedure or happened to miss reading Fast Company’s five-page article on the matter, I’ll lay-out the seemingly simple instructions on how to dismantle that three-piece suit that defines the Starbucks experience:

1. Cup = Compost
2. Lid = Landfill
3. Cardboard Coffee Collar = Recycle

Three separate waste streams. But how often do you come across a compost or recycling receptacle inside a Starbucks or out on the street? The reality is that the rules of recycling are a bit confusing. And even if you do know where to put what, you might not have that option readily available to you.

Never did I think learning about waste-stream management or a simple thing like tri-sorter recycling chutes would get me this jazzed, but it’s happening.  And momentarily putting the Starbucks cup aside, my query is this: LEED certified projects are required to provide areas designated for recyclable storage and collection, but what percentage of projects that take this into account when they are NOT seeking certification?

(The team at GreenBuild made this a huge priority and set a 95 percent landfill diversion rate as their goal for the conference. Not only were recycling stations set up at regular intervals throughout the convention space, but volunteers were placed at each one instructing attendees on the correct way to “throw away.”)

As for the recycling efforts of Starbucks, their Web site states their goal as, “By 2015, we plan to have recycling available in all of our stores where we control waste collection and serve 25 percent of beverages in reusable cups.” Being the environmentally-conscious coffee addict that I am, I certainly plan to do my part by continuing to bring my personal tumbler with me each visit, even if it does mean missing out on carrying around that sassy, new siren logo.

–Brittany Hahn

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