Generally with most things whether you can recycle the item or not, if it is made for one-time use, there is a more environmentally-friendly option. Starbucks has claimed it will make all its paper cups recyclable by 2012 thus joining the recycling craze. It’s important though to remember the other two “Rs” in green living: reduce and reuse. Reduce waste, production of paper cups, and the energy exerted in making them, recycling them, transporting materials involved in the process and transporting the products, by buying a mug and reusing it again and again. Or if you’re going to hang out in the Starbucks and have your coffee there, ask them to put it in one of the ceramic mugs. That’s what they do automatically in Japan if you’re going to drink your coffee inside the store.
It should be noted that even if all of Starbucks’ cups are recyclable there will most likely still be a majority of its high customer volume that will dispose of the cups wherever it is convenient. People tend to think of used drink containers as garbage (not recycling) regardless of the material it is made of. So to answer the question realistically they are harmful because of the predominant means by which they are disposed of. Bringing our own thermoses or mugs each time would be ideal, but for some reason most of the on-the-go coffee market either doesn’t realize the benefits of doing so or perceives it as an inconvenience.
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