Coffee Cups and Alternatives

For those of you who know me, I have been collecting coffee cups for a long time. Used to drive my boss nuts, he saw it as trash I was hording; I saw it as my effort to not contribute to landfill.

Because, I had a place to take the coffee cups to. My pilgrimage to my friend in Ashland, who has a farm and does heirloom tomato starts, among other things, and puts the starts in coffee cups to make them easily transported and planted. She and her husband don’t drink much coffee, and more importantly, they don’t go consume it at stores with paper cups, so the collecting of the cups has been interesting for them, reducing them to pawing through trash when they have been needed for plantings.

Myself and another friend do our part to not have them do that, by contributing our coffee cups.

Thus my coffee cup collection. And I save cups from everywhere, to give those tomato starts a transnational exposure, or at least her customers a choice of coffee cups to choose from. Some are even biodegradeable, so can be planted straight into the ground, no trashing later needed.

But not everyone else has this as an option. Not everyone knows an organic farmer they want to visit on a regular basis to conveniently dispose of their cups. (And let’s not even think about the carbon emissions from that journey! But I always combine it with other errands, like I’m supposed to. Trip to Ashland, OR on way to visit parents in Montana, check.)

So here are a few other things I have seen concerning coffee cup disposal:

Millbrae has a public coffee cup crusher, right next to the Starbucks, to prevent the cups from filling up the public trash receptacles.

Millbrae CA's Coffee Cup Crusher

Millbrae CA's Coffee Cup Crusher

And then there were the interesting contraptions found at Burning Man, in the Cafe, where you can purchase coffee and espresso drinks, the only other thing besides ice that are for sale out there in Black Rock City. Officially for sale.

Well, I can’t find a photo of it, I think those photos are on a previous computer, shucks, but the contraption was a large metal basin, with a hole in the center of it. The basin was about waist high, and rebar pipes stuck out of it at odd angles, angled towards the center of the basin, only so the rebar didn’t stick out of the confines of the rim, and possibly poke someone’s eye out. Beneath the hole of the basin was a plastic bucket. Okay, so what was it for? Done with your coffee cup, you went and skewered the cup (bottom up) onto a rebar skewer, and any remaining coffee dripped into the basin, through the hole and into the waiting bucket. Cafe workers would then come around and unskewer the now neatly stacked coffee cups, and also dump out the coffee debris in the bottom of the bucket. This all prevented coffee cups from blowing away when the dust storms and other gusts of wind happened. What happened to the cups after they were collected, with skewered holes in their bottoms, I do not know. But in the meantime it made interesting participatory art sculptures.

But better still is being able to see the coffee cups reused, as I got to when visiting the Ashland farm.

Happily re-used coffee cups, giving new life

Happily re-used coffee cups, giving new life

There are probably those among you asking, but what about re-usable cups, and let’s get rid of all these paper cups altogether? Starbucks could 1) charge for the addition of a cup, rather than giving a discount for bringing your own cup before 2) they switch to providing no cup at all. If Ikea can get rid of plastic bags, while offering more permanent bagging solutions as the only other provided option, why not Starbucks get rid of providing cups, while promoting their already available glorified thermoses? (Thermosi?)

I am all for it. Let’s do it. No more paper coffee cups. Great idea. And when you have those insulated cups for yourself, you don’t need to bother with the java jackets or cup sleeves, or whatever they are called, another use of paper products as readily disposable trash.  

So why haven’t I done that myself?

Car design. I can only order medium or smaller coffees that fit securely in the dash cup holders of my mid-90’s designed car. There was a large cup holder in the back, but the mechanism to open and close it broke, and so any cup placed in it now just falls out.

I actually went out and bought a coffee travel mug, and was excited to have it, and it seemed to fit in the cup holder wedged between gear shift and radio, only to tip over when any curves were involved. And potentially spill, if I had left the lid open for sipping, so I didn’t need to take my eyes of the road to open it. Which it did, of course.

All the more reason it is time to look for a new car.

Wait, new car? Well, yes, because the public transportation system does not allow the eating and drinking of food and beverages while riding on them. Not that it stops anyone, but the lurches and braking admittedly make it difficult to consume hot liquids and not do damage to oneself or others.

Maybe we should just switch to coffee filled Camel-Backs then. Good idea for cold mornings, but on hot days, I doubt many people want their backs even hotter!

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One Response to “Coffee Cups and Alternatives”

  1. gary Says:

    The starschmucks here HAS real cups but you have to beg to get them, they are always just filling the paper ones, believe it or not…

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