They’re here

Few weeks ago I passed a sign in the street saying

The Red Cups Are Coming

a certain coffee shop ingeniously avoids naming any seasonal religious holidays by redefining the season as the time when they switch cup colour, ingeniously engineering anticipation: customers will be able to buy their coffee in red cups, to celebrate the season of red cups. Brilliant!

And now they here… Piled up at the bottom of the escalators on The Tube, huddled in corners at the bottom of windy buildings, rolling round on the ground near overfull litter bins. The cups have arrived, distinctly pink, they betray their origin at that certain coffee shop. You buy their coffee but they continue to own the red! German motor manufacturers are taking responsibility for the entire life-time of their vehicles, including recycling after they are written off. But red cups just sit there betraying cafe consumer culture.

Nic and I sat on the tube speculating about how much it would cost to put RFID tags in the cups, wondering whether a deposit and return policy would encourage us to dispose of theme responsibly or turn them into currency. Nic had the best idea:

“You want to chance society”, she said, “so that we have time to sit in the coffee shop and drink from china cups”.

Next day I was in a greasy spoon cafe and the waitress was drinking from a brown paper cup. I asked her:

“Did you bring that from another coffee shop?”

“No, they are our cups”, she pointed at the dispenser of paper cups on the wall. I looked at my own chine mug swilling over with white tea.

“Why aren’t you using a cup like this?”

“I don’t know. Ever since I used to work for Starbucks I always choose a paper cup”

Paper cups are cool! They make you think you’re in a designer coffee shop when you’re really in the greasy cafe at Hammersmith Tube station. Then my friend the waitress reminded me what I had forgotten: take-out coffee cups are made of waxed paper: a composite material that can’t easily be recycled. Sometimes the corrugated sleeves can be recycled but the cups never die: off to the landfill with them: red cups decaying amongst piles of consumer waste.

One Comment

  1. Alan Says:

    Mark,

    Too true… paper cups are “cool.” What some independent coffee shops do in America is give you a discount if you bring your own mug. It’s never very much, but I suppose it’s a good start. Maybe they should start charging for the cups. I think some grocery stores do that for the bags. We need to start taking some of these drastic measures soon…

    I think the red cup thing is pretty brilliant from a funny secular point of view, but it’s probably just a marketing thing to them… same with all these companies jumping on the “green” and “sustainability” bandwagon.

    Keep the articles coming!