Open letter to Starbucks

Zero Waste Canada Offers Starbucks Help in
Pursuing Environmental Stewardship

Dear Starbucks Corporate Social Responsibility Team,


It looks like your twitter account was getting a lot of attention yesterday.

I’m reaching out on behalf of Zero Waste Canada, a nonprofit organization in beautiful British Columbia.

With a waste record of 4 billion single-use cups, unfulfilled environmental stewardship goals and a lot of negative media attention regarding wasteful corporate practices (CBC article, CBC follow-up article, Behind the scenes at Starbucks), Starbucks certainly has an undeniable trash problem. A problem you acknowledged in a 2016 report

“Not only are there municipal barriers to successful recycling in many cities, but it takes significant changes in behavior to get it right. A few non-recyclable items in a recycle bin can render the entire bag unrecyclable to the hauler.“

You also acknowledged in your 2015 Global Responsibility Report that “through promotional campaigns (…) reusable cups lead to a small increase in use of reusable cups, the impact tends to be short-lived. We continue to encourage customers to use personal tumblers by offering a discount on beverages, but we believe this behavior change is ultimately up to customers.”

And this is the problem: It is not up to customers alone. This is where corporate social responsibility comes in. “Encouraging” a certain behaviour is not enough. Coffee companies started this single-use coffee cup culture and are now responsible for creating the opposite: a resuable coffee cup culture. And yes, this is possible. It all just comes down to the right incentives.

The Zero Waste movement around the world has grown exponentially on the very foundation that addressing our wasteful nature requires community responsibility on the back-end (re-use, recycling) but also industrial responsibility on the front-end (prevention, re-design). This here is your community reaching out and asking you to meet it halfway and stand by your own responsibilities.

We understand that you have partnered with the Alliance for Environmental Innovation in the 1990s to reduce the environmental impacts of serving coffee in Starbucks retail stores. Now, we would like to pick up where this partnership has left off.

Zero Waste Canada focuses on waste reduction for organizations and communities. We have noticed that coffee shops are often in the center of public rants about garbage. In Vancouver alone, there are 2.6 million discarded cups a week, which costs taxpayers $2.5 million every year to clear away.

Waste is the outcome of poor industrial design and we’d like to help you create more responsible choices that will truly connect you with your customers and fans. The result will be a cleaner environment for all to enjoy.

We’d like to help you become a trendsetter in regards to environmental stewardship and become a company that lives and breathes corporate social responsibility. And we’d like to offer you a hand in making this transition happen.

We would like to schedule a meeting with you and discuss the opportunity to test for a series of initiatives that would set you on the path to Zero Waste.

We are looking forward to your response.

Thank you.


Connie Reichelsdorfer
Executive Director
Zero Waste Canada