One of the great areas of growth on the high street in the noughties was the boom of the American style cafe. The likes of Starbucks and similar brands popped up on every high street, in supermarkets, hotels, petrol stations and even pubs. With the American theme came the over disposable nature of American life. Throw away everything and, in the case of the tea and coffee drinks, throw away paper cups, paper cups selves and their plastic lids.
Of course, it's been like this for years before, but not on this scale. Cup sizes have increased from a what I thought was a standard tea cup size to something akin to a flask – all to add 'value'. Cups then went crazy with plastic coatings to improve the look, highly coloured prints, thicker paper, more more more. It's 2010 now and things are tough for everyone and a lot of the over marketing of a simple cup has disappeared almost as an affluent excess that turns people off the very product being sold.
The craze of putting these cafe facilities into businesses (as an effort to make a lot of money for the companies hosting these franchises) has just pushed further waste into companies that are not designed or largely required to recycle their waste. Almost every private sector company I visit has bins full of these cups, sleeves and plastic lids.
Clearly there are some big companies out there mitigating these excesses – IBM being one of them. Their introduction of recycling facilities at just about every office is a commendable first step. This is one among a few though. Even the most evangelical capitalist (or ConDem) would admit that Private Companies cannot be expected to 'do the right thing' and recycle their waste.
It's the simple paper cup waste that says it all for me. We have soaked up the throw away society slowly over the years. Adopted the American disposable culture and largely forgotten the cost of this excess. Cost in the creation of the product – paper from trees, plastic from oil and coal; cost in the disposal of the product; the cost of our greed over farming areas to produce parts of our consumed product; the cost to people in our ignorance of their lives and working conditions; the cost to our future and future generations. The true cost of our excesses will far out strip the financial troubles in the world. Let's hope that we are not hated by our grandchildren for our ignorant consumer 'bliss'.