A Semi-Shoutout For Starbucks

Recently, Starbucks moved across the Post Road. It exchanged comfy, friendly digs with limited parking near the diner for cold, unfriendly digs with equally limited parking — but a drive-thru! — near Bank of America.

Fairly quickly, customers noticed that the coffee chain with the green logo was anything but environmentally green. The outside was a mess — though that’s been cleaned up a bit.


The new Starbucks, a few days after opening.

Meanwhile, inside there was no way for customers to separate paper and plastic goods from everything else.

Robie Spector had spent years trying to get managers at the previous Starbucks location to recycle. Facing defensiveness and obfuscation, she stopped going there.

Robie gave the new place a try. She was distressed to see no recycling.

She tried again. Again, she got the same lack of answers and “a dash of odd vibe.”

She contacted Starbucks corporate. A district manager called back, blaming the landlord.

Robie contacted the first selectman’s office, who told her to call Public Works. They had good news: State law mandates that businesses recycle.

However, there are no inspectors. So companies do what they want, unchecked.

As they chatted, Robie and Scott Sullivan of Public Works realized that Panera by Home Goods does a great job of recycling. Robie set up a meeting with Sharon, the general manager, who was quite helpful. She emboldened Robie to keep pressing Starbucks’ district manager.

She did. Finally, Robie says, Starbucks is recycling.


At least, it seems that way. Of course, it could all end up in the same place out back. (Thankfully though, that trash has been cleaned up.)

As Thomas Jefferson sort of said, eternal vigilance is the price of a grande iced sugar-free vanilla latte with soy milk.

20 responses to “A Semi-Shoutout For Starbucks

  1. Thomas Orofino

    Interestingly enough most of our “waste” is trucked to a plant in Bridgeport where all the waste, separated or not, is put in a huge cement whole. Small cranes pick up every piece no matter what type of waste and puts it on conveyor belts where it is incenerated and turns the waste to steam into running a turbine to make electricity which is sold the our utility for our consumption. Why do we separate?

    • Not exactly. Recyclables go to a plant in Stratford that processes them in a single stream. Everything else goes to the Bridgeport waste-to-energy plant, and the residue goes to a landfill.

  2. Notice that the trash bin has labels, “recycle” and “landfill”.
    There is no more landfill. Landfill is just as “illegal” as is not recycling.
    Starbucks, a rather repulsive iteration in the new location, should catch up to the times.

  3. Rob Simmelkjaer

    Way to go Robbie!

  4. William Adler

    Terrific job of 06880 journalism and citizen activism!

  5. Winfield Street Italian Deli

    At the Winfield Street stores, we go an extra step. The recycling problem is big, but in our industry, the real problem is the organic waste. There is so much of it any of our stores, and Starbucks stores, that could go to create compost, combat erosion and diminish the energy usage for trash incineration. We use the service of http://www.curbcompost.org, who is a local guy that collects organic waste from residences and businesses and brings it to Taylor farm in Danbury where they make the organic compost. CT is going to be one of the first states to enact a law requiring businesses to recycle organic waste, but I imagine that just as in the recycling of plastic, there will be little enforcement and little action. We are trying to slowly make this burden easier on business owners, so they can be motivated to do something good for the environment.

    • Robie Spector

      You’ve got my gratitude! And my business from here on out!

    • In Vancouver, 2.5 million people, recycling organic waste has been mandatory for the last few years. Call it a socialist recycling plot!

      • Thomas Orofino

        Nancy Hunter, terrific post regarding organic waste. I have been involved in the Digester industry which is “fueled” by organic waste that you mentioned. Like many of these issues the problem is economic, how to collect this waste, haul it to a Digester and then produce pipeline quality gas………..it’s more expensive then current natural gas and the public does not want to pay the price of recycled organic waste which can be recycled into pipeline quality gas.

  6. Roberta Tager

    Great work! Thanks for sharing!

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Great progress! Too bad that it looks like the paper cups are not recyclable…?

  8. FYI: green & tonic doesn’t recycle. At least not in Westport or New Canaan.

    Great topic for someone to dig even further!

    Kudos to Starbucks.

    Sent on my iPhone


  9. Jaime Bairaktaris

    We’re very behind on whole Go Green thing here, in comparison. In Italy, there’s a bin for Compost, Metals (aluminum foil), Paper, Plastic, and then one for Garbage. Every house, every restaurant, every street corner. And if you don’t finish food, it’s given to the homeless. I’m really waiting for Westport to jump onto that band wagon.

  10. The more important environmental issue with the new drive through Starbucks is the fact that we now have a line of cars with idling engines pouring pollution into our already dirty air all day long. It’s a terrible arrangement and should never have been approved in the first place

  11. Dick Lowenstein

    Have you ever eaten at Whole Foods? There the disposal options are similar, but you have three round holes for three choices. And for the undecided or confused, one big bin for everything else. Guess which one has the most waste?

  12. Westport has a regulations that all plastic, cardboard, and paper must be put in the blue bins. Why isn’t that enforced for every restaurant, deli and coffee shop? Its pretty simple since every commercial waste company has two different dumpsters one labeled recycle/cardboard and one garbage.

  13. I am glad to admit that I learned a new word today: obfuscation!

    Thanks 🙂

  14. Perhaps to cut down on trash especially the famous “cup” we should bring our stainless steel mugs for a fill up, we all have them similar to bringing our own bags to the grocery store. Westport put a ban on plastic bags when purchasing anything. We can do this it just takes a bit more planning..



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