THE LAST PLASTIC STRAW
Strawless in Seattle By Robin Roenker
n July, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils. Businesses there must now offer compostable or recyclable serviceware, or face a $250 fine. Fresh Cup reached out to three Seattle coffee shops to ask about the impact of the new ordinance—and how it has shifted the ways they serve their customers, if at all. Espresso Vivace founder David Schomer said that while he’s been using sustainable packaging, including EarthSense compostable straws as well as compostable hot and cool beverage cups and lids from brands like EcoChoice and Fabri-Kal Greenware, at his three Seattle locations for years, the citywide ordinance has led to broader understanding about the importance of reducing single-use plastics. “Awareness expanded when the regulations went in, because people now go, ‘Well maybe this is important because look, even McDonald’s and Starbucks and other big corporations are doing it now, along with the independent shops that have been doing it for years,’” says Schomer, whose decades-long dedication to environmental sustainability included planting thousands of cedar trees in 2004 in order to make his roasting operation carbon neutral.
50 | OCTOBER 2018 » freshcup.com
Recently, Espresso Vivace went virtually 100 percent compostable with the adoption of “omnidegradable” retail coffee bags produced by a Canadian firm called TekPak Solutions. In the café, Schomer and his team have installed picture charts over the recycling, compost, and garbage bins to help customers better understand what goes where. Schomer is encouraged by the fact that the only items now going into the trash bin are mini cream cheese containers. Everything else, save for plastic food containers, which are recyclable, goes into the compost bin. Victrola Coffee currently offers both compostable and recyclable cups at its four Seattle locations. According to owner Dan Ollis, educating customers about composting versus recycling—and the relative pros and cons of each—continues to be a challenge for many shop owners, who must work to stay informed about new sustainable products, as well as the best practices of the recycling and composting facilities in the city. At Tougo Coffee, which operates three locations in Seattle, founder Brian Wells said one ongoing challenge is educating customers about the importance of tossing their straws and cups in designated compost and recycling bins, rather than a traditional trash can, even on the go.
“A lot of times, we fear our guests won’t take the time to find a compost or recycling bin to dispose of their recyclable or compostable products,” says Wells. “They’ll just throw it all in the rubbish barrel on the street,” thereby defeating the purpose of offering sustainable serviceware. Wells hopes as more months under the new ordinance pass, access to curbside composting and recycling bins will increase, as well as residents’ understanding of how best to use them. Like Schomer and Ollis, Wells continues to look for new and innovative ways to expand his shops’ commitment to sustainability. In addition to offering compost made from used grounds and food scraps to area neighbors for their gardens, Tougo has begun working with local artisans to create a line of wallets, keychains, and even coffee cup sleeves crafted from used, non-recyclable fivepound retail coffee bags. Along with their use of compostable and recyclable serviceware and efforts to donate excess food to a nearby retirement community and the homeless, Tougo’s effort to upcycle represents another step in their overall approach to reducing landfill waste. Wells’ next goal: adopting sustainable bags. “We’re currently exploring compostable bags for our takeout pastry items,” he says. FC
PHOTOS COURTESY OF: ESPRESSO VIVACE (LEFT) AND VICTROLA COFFEE (RIGHT)