Calif. Cafés are ban­ish­ing paper cups

Antelope Valley Press - - Front Page - By JO­CE­LYN GECKER As­so­ci­ated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A new café cul­ture is brew­ing in the San Francisco area, where a grow­ing num­ber of cof­fee houses are ban­ish­ing paper to-go cups and re­plac­ing them with ev­ery­thing from glass jars to rental mugs and BYO cup poli­cies.

What started as a small trend among neigh­bor­hood cafes to re­duce waste is gain­ing sup­port from some big names in the city’s food and cof­fee world.

Cel­e­brated chef Do­minique Crenn, owner of the three­star Miche­lin restau­rant Ate­lier Crenn, is open­ing a San Francisco café next year that will have no to-go bags or dis­pos­able cof­fee cups and will use no plas­tic. Cus­tomers who plan to sip and go at Bou­tique Crenn will be en­cour­aged to bring their own cof­fee cups, says spokes­woman Kate Bittman.

On a big­ger scale, the Blue Bot­tle cof­fee­house chain, which goes through about 15,000 to-go cups a month at its 70 U.S. lo­ca­tions, says it wants to “show our guests and the world that we can elim­i­nate dis­pos­able cups.”

Blue Bot­tle is start­ing small with plans to stop us­ing paper cups at two of its San Francisco area branches in 2020, as part of a pledge to go “zero waste” by the end of next year. Cof­fee to-go cus­tomers will have to bring their own mug or pay a de­posit for a re­us­able cup, which they can keep or re­turn for a re­fund. The de­posit fee will likely be be­tween $3 and $5, the com­pany said.

Blue Bot­tle’s pi­lot pro­gram will help guide the com­pany on how to ex­pand the idea na­tion­wide, CEO Bryan Mee­han said in a state­ment.

“We ex­pect to lose some busi­ness,” he said. “We know some of our guests won’t like it — and we’re pre­pared for that.”

Larger cof­fee and fast-food chains around the U.S. are feel­ing a sense of ur­gency to be more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, and will no doubt be watch­ing, said Brid­get Croke, of New York-based recycling in­vest­ment firm Closed Loop Part­ners, which is work­ing with Star­bucks and Mc­Don­ald’s to de­velop an eco-friendly al­ter­na­tive to the dis­pos­able cof­fee cup.

De­spite the name, to­day’s con­ven­tional paper cups for hot drinks aren’t made solely from paper. They also have plas­tic lin­ings that pre­vent leak­age but make them hard to re­cy­cle, Croke said. She says it’s un­likely large na­tional chains will ban­ish dis­pos­able cups, in the im­me­di­ate term, or per­suade all cus­tomers to bring mugs, so they’re look­ing for other so­lu­tions.

Star­bucks, which has more than 15,000 U.S. cafes and about 16,000 in­ter­na­tion­ally, plans to test newly de­signed re­cy­clable cups in five cities next year: San Francisco, Seat­tle, New York, Van­cou­ver and Lon­don, spokes­woman Noelle Novoa said.

Cal­i­for­nia cities have long been lead­ers in recycling and pass­ing laws to en­cour­age eco-friendly habits.

This year, the state be­came the first to ban restau­rants from au­to­mat­i­cally hand­ing out plas­tic straws with drinks. It was also the first, in 2014, to pro­hibit stores from pro­vid­ing dis­pos­able plas­tic gro­cery bags to shoppers, and bags at check­out now cost 10 cents.

Also this year, San Francisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port be­came the na­tion’s first major air­port to stop sell­ing wa­ter in plas­tic bot­tles. Wa­ter is now sold in glass bot­tles and alu­minum cans, and trav­el­ers are en­cour­aged to bring their own empty bot­tles to fill up for free.

Start­ing in Jan­uary, cafes and restau­rants in Berke­ley will charge 25 cents for dis­pos­able cups, and San Francisco is con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.

An­tic­i­pat­ing the fee, a group of about a dozen Berke­ley cafes teamed up in a mug-shar­ing pro­gram, where cus­tomers can rent a stain­less steel cup from one cafe and drop it off at any of the oth­ers. Ves­sel, the Colorado start-up that pro­vides the cups, has a sim­i­lar pro­gram run­ning in Boul­der.

Many cof­fee drinkers in the San Francisco area are tak­ing Blue Bot­tle’s an­nounce­ment in stride.

“Of course it’s a good idea,” said free­lance writer Tracy Schroth, at a Blue Bot­tle cafe in Oak­land. “It’s such a small step to ask peo­ple to bring their own cup. Peo­ple just have to get into the mind­set.”

At a Blue Bot­tle in San Francisco, elec­tri­cian Jeff Michaels said he does love the cof­fee but doesn’t want to pay more if he for­gets a mug.

“I paid al­most $7 for this cof­fee,” Michaels said, sip­ping a cafe mocha. “How much are peo­ple will­ing to pay for a cof­fee?”

Small-café owner Kedar Korde is op­ti­mistic that one day it will be­come trendy for cof­fee drinkers to carry around re­us­able mugs, just like stain­less steel wa­ter bot­tles have be­come a must-have ac­ces­sory in the San Francisco area.

As­so­ci­ated Press

In this photo taken on Thurs­day, a Blue Bot­tle Cof­fee paper to-go cup rests on a ta­ble out­side one of their cafes in San Francisco.

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