Everywhere we go, single-use. Single-use water bottle, single-use grocery bag, single-use coffee cup. The to-go container at McDonald’s. Spork, knife combos of plastic cutlery, the two straws in your $15 cocktail. The society that we live in? It’s a single-use society. Between purchase and disposal, we have our time together, that’s all we get, then it’s to the landfill.
We use so many single-use items, we don’t even think about how much we throw away. Take a second and think about it, how many things do you purchase, use, and toss in the trash every day?
The answer is, well, it’s a lot.
It’s no secret that we Americans love coffee. Around 400 million cups of coffee are poured and consumed each and every day and the result of that, we throw away over 135 million single-use cups. You can go ahead and double those totals when Pumpkin-spice lattes go on sale. Oh, you use recyclable or compostable cups? Yeah, more than likely they’re headed to the landfill as well.
With the opening of PILLLAR Forum Cafe earlier this year and serving up coffees in to-go cups makes us part of the problem, albeit a small part, but a part none-the-less. But, we are trying. We recently launched our Reuse Program, which looks to reduce our disposables by 30%. Hey, it's a start.
So what do we do with all this waste? The seemingly endless supply of single-use items that are are handed out at every turn. Are we to carry around reusable everythings everywhere we go? And even if we, as individuals, cut our single-use items to zero, you still have companies like Exxon, whose daily CO2 emissions, pollutants and waste, surpasses even the most wasteful of wasters that has ever wasted.
But that’s not really the point, is it?
135 million coffee cups to landfills. Every. Single. Day.
Now, I’m not here to suggest that getting rid of single-use coffee cups is going to fix the climate crisis, but what I am saying is that we, as in the collective “we,” can start changing our mindset on single-use items. Bring that tumbler with you. Fill it with coffee. Fill it with water. Fill it with (cringe) a Coke. Keep reusable grocery bags in your car. Those plastic bags that you literally use for the 8-minute drive from the grocery store to your home is not worth the 1,000 years it takes for them to decompose in a landfill.
Businesses won’t change on their own. That is, unless there’s a financial reason to do so. Look at all the car companies now racing to release EVs. They could’ve pushed that technology years ago, but it wasn’t until Tesla showed that there’s an appetite from consumers for electric vehicles, did the rest of the big companies finally start to push electric. The same will be for getting rid of single-use items. It’s going to take us, as consumers, to push for, and support the companies that are working to eliminate waste and eliminate single-use items for everyone else to follow.
So yes, we’re just one small coffee shop, in one small corner, in one small city, looking to eliminate single-use items, but it’s a start.
Oh yeah, and fuck Exxon too. Here I am trying to get people to stop using to-go coffee cups and they’re emitting more pollution into the air in one day than PILLLAR would in 1,000 years.