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More Coffeehouses in California Ban Throw-away Cups

In this Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 photo, a Blue Bottle Coffee paper to-go cup rests on a table outside one of their cafes in San Francisco. The Oakland-based chain says it's getting rid of disposable cups at two locations next year.
In this Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 photo, a Blue Bottle Coffee paper to-go cup rests on a table outside one of their cafes in San Francisco. The Oakland-based chain says it's getting rid of disposable cups at two locations next year.
More Coffeehouses in California Ban Throw-away Cups
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A new coffee culture is forming in and around San Francisco, California. A growing number of coffeehouses there are barring paper cups. Instead, they are using glass containers or creating “bring your own” cup policies.

The movement started among neighborhood cafes in an effort to reduce waste. Now it is gaining support from large businesses in the city – and around the country.

Efforts to reduce waste

Celebrated cook Dominique Crenn is opening a café in San Francisco next year that will not use to-go bags, throw-away coffee cups or any plastic. Diners who plan to buy a to-go drink from Boutique Crenn will be asked to bring their own coffee cups, a spokeswoman said.

The Blue Bottle coffeehouse company uses about 15,000 to-go cups each month at its 70 shops across the U.S. The company recently said 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 stores in 2020. The move is part of a promise to produce “zero waste” by the end of next year. Customers will have to bring their own cup or pay an additional $3 to $5 for a reusable cup. They can keep the mug or return it to get their money back.

The company’s chief executive officer, Bryan Meehan, said in a statement that the new program will help guide the company on how to expand its policy nationwide.

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

Larger coffee and fast-food businesses around the U.S. are feeling a sense of urgency to be more environmentally friendly, said Bridget Croke. She is with the New York-based investment company Closed Loop Partners. It is working with Starbucks and McDonald’s to develop a substitute for the disposable coffee cup.

Today’s to-go cups for hot drinks are not only made from paper. They also have plastic to prevent leaking. This makes them hard to recycle, Croke said. She admitted that it is not likely large national food and drink companies will stop using disposable cups completely or ask all customers to bring their own.

So, her company is looking for other solutions. Starbucks and McDonald’s paid $10 million to a partnership with Closed Loop to develop the “single-use cup of the future.” The result is expected to be recyclable and to break down naturally.

Starbucks has more than 15,000 U.S. stores and about 16,000 in other countries. It plans to test newly designed recyclable cups in five cities next year.

The state of California has long been a leader in creating more environmentally friendly practices.

In 2014, California became the first state in America to bar stores from providing disposable plastic bags to shoppers. Some cities in the state have passed a number of other laws aimed at reducing waste.

This year, San Francisco International Airport became the nation’s first major airport to stop selling water in plastic bottles.

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

Many coffee drinkers at the Blue Bottle coffeehouses in the San Francisco area have accepted banning disposable cups.

“Of course it’s a good idea,” said Tracy Schroth, a writer who was buying a drink at a Blue Bottle cafe in Oakland, California. “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 store in San Francisco, electrician Jeff Michaels said he does love the coffee. But, he does not want to pay more if he forgets to bring his own cup. “I paid almost $7 for this coffee,” Michaels said. “How much are people willing to pay for a coffee?”

Kedar Korde owns a small café. He is hopeful that one day it will become normal for coffee drinkers to carry around reusable mugs. Korde’s Perch Cafe in Oakland stopped using paper and plastic cups in September.

He decided to make the change after his 9-year-old daughter’s school cleaned up waste at Lake Merritt, near his cafe. The students found his cafe’s disposable cups in the water.

His daughter joked that she should not have to clean her room if he could not keep his own things out of the lake. He took her words seriously.

“We’re a small coffee shop. We’re not going to save the world,” Korde said; but, he added, “Our cups are no longer winding up in the lake.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

And I’m Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

cup - n. a small round container that often has a handle and that is used for drinking liquids (such as tea and coffee)

eliminate - v. to remove (something that is not wanted or needed) : to get rid of (something)

disposable - adj. made to be used once or only a few times : made to be thrown away after one use or several uses

customer - n. ​someone who buys goods or services from a business​

mug - n. ​a large drinking cup with a handle​

guest - n. ​a customer at a hotel, restaurant, etc.​

practice - n. something that is done often or regularly

recycle - n. ​to make something new from (something that has been used before)​

winding up - phrasal verb. to find someone or something in a particular place or situation​