SbuxCupI have been regularly encountering the most unexpectedly irritating experience with my neighborhood Starbucks store…As you know Starbucks allows customers to bring in their own “personal cups”. But try wanting to reuse your standard issue Starbucks plastic cup that they gave you (pic attached) and they’ve taken to refusing to let you recycle it.

This is even more irritating in light of how much Starbucks loves to self-promote themselves as being very progressive and hip to environmental and social concerns, yet apparently they don’t care about the increasingly “plastic ocean”, due to our extreme waste and overuse of plastic containers and bags. They apparently don’t seem to care about the “island” in the Pacific Ocean the size of TEXAS, that can be seen from outer space, all formed by an ever-collecting “floating landfill” of plastic waste.

Despite the fact that I am one of their most frequent loyal customers, they instead like to tell me that it’s the “health inspector” who requires that they not allow customers to recycle their cups. This is BS because I am trying to recycle a “plastic” cup, not a “paper” cup. (I have a feeling this is at least partly a result of lobbying efforts by the company that MAKES and provides them their plastic cups, and who stands to lose a lot of money the more people recycle them)

Now I am sure the health inspector would not want PAPER cups to continually be recycled, because they do quickly begin to collect visible bacteria, etc and cannot be washed. But I can BUY one of Starbucks many overpriced plastic cups for sale on the shelf in their store and they are more than happy to recognize that as my personal cup, and refill it on demand to my heart’s content. That is nothing but a huge, glaring double standard – clearly an effort to make more of a profit and get consumers to spend more money there.

I actually had one Starbucks barista try to tell me that the vienti Starbucks cup I like to reuse as my personal cup (pic attached) should not be reused/recycled because it is made out of a different type and “quality” of plastic. (???) This is just ridiculous, and it is resulting in an egregious amount of unnecessary waste, not to mention extra cost to Starbucks, and their stockholders should not be happy.

This is because Starbucks would save money on cups with all the customers like myself who are choosing not to require them to give us a brand new plastic cup every time we come in. (I have heard from other baristas that there are many other customers like myself, expressing the same desire to reuse/recycle their basic lightweight plastic Starbucks cups)

So in my irritation with them, I recently got the idea to go to Peet’s Coffee – one of Starbucks main competitors – and get one of their standard lightweight plastic cups. I took the plastic Peet’s cup back to Starbucks, proudly proclaiming it as my “PERSONAL CUP”. As soon as I walked in, some of the baristas who are very friendly with me and sympathetic to my frustration, recognized my ploy immediately when they saw the cup in my hand. They immediately began laughing, and one of them hollered, “Charge her extra for the Peet’s cup!”

The shift supervisor (who previously had not allowed me to reuse my sbux cup) just stared at their competitor’s cup in her hand, kind of bewildered, as I explained to her that this was my new “personal cup” that I wished to use and recycle from now on. Since it wasn’t one of Starbucks vienti cups as in the pic I have attached, she accepted it because it was in fact a plastic cup, not unlike one I could have purchased from their collection for sale.

With all the hassle and creative angling I had to go to in order to recycle my cup with them, soon I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks opens a store on that plastic island in the Pacific in order to cater to the international tanker ships and fishing trawlers. In the meantime, I’d like to think that plastic island has a few less Starbucks cups floating in it thanks to my new Peet’s personal cup.

Connie Bryan
Connie Bryan is a comedian and editorial writer in Sacramento, CA…Check out all of Connie’s oped’s on her blog at