Every year, Americans throw away approximately 25,000,000,000 styrofoam cups(1).
Even worse, these cups are non-biodegradable, meaning that up to 500 years from now, the coffee cup you used this morning will still be taking up space in a landfill.
Now a startup company called Reduce. Reuse. Grow. (RRG) is trying to make a dent in our landfill problem by introducing plantable coffee cups.
Local Seeds For Local Problems
Cups from RRG are distributed with specific areas in mind, each containing seeds that are local to the area they’ll be distributed in – a tactic which promotes local biodiversity and reduces the problem of non-native plants edging out native ones.
Planting the cups is designed to be an easy process: simply unravel the used cup, soak it in water for five minutes, and plant the soaked cup in your garden(2).
These plantable coffee cups provide an alternative not just to throwing out coffee cups but to recycling them as well. Recycling, it turns out, is only a viable alternative up to a point. Once a product has been broken down and recycled multiple times, recycling is no longer an option – so it’s off to the landfill, inevitably.
The cups made by RRG, however, are fully biodegradable, meaning once the seeds start sprouting, there’s nothing left of the original cup.
Kickstarting The Future
The RRG Team successfully crowdsourced funding for their coffee cup project on kickstarter.com, raising just over 21,000 dollars with 569 backers as of March of 2015. Their ultimate goal is to distribute the coffee cups throughout the United States, implementing a system for picking up discarded RRG cups in order for volunteers to plant them “for local reforestation purposes”(3) in cases where individual consumers don’t simply plant the cups themselves in their own gardens.
Reducing Waste In The Future
RRG hopes to find a place for their coffee cups in cities which are working to ban disposable coffee cup containers in the manner that New York recently has.
“Restaurant owners and food vendors here (in New York) will transition to more environmentally friendly food and beverage containers, just as they have in more than 100 jurisdictions around the country where similar bans have already been adopted,” said Eric Goldstein, a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council(4).
Reduce. Reuse. Grow. hopes to be one of the options for more environmentally sustainable food and beverage containers that these vendors, and others, turn to as such bans become more mainstream across the country.
Certainly many restaurants and coffee shops have been looking for more environmentally friendly – and affordable – alternatives to conventional coffee cups and other food and drink containers.
The RRG teams coffee cup project is just one of a few recent attempts to provide vendors with viable eco-conscious alternatives to styrofoam and other non-biodegradable materials.