The Fuss About Coffee Cups & Straws

It’s a headline in the news in the same way that shopping chain plastic bags caused such a stir! And now the plastic bag saga is even more of an issue because Coles has changed its mind on implementation of the plastic bag ban because of consumer backlash.

Starbucks has said that it is now charging customers who bring their own cups a 50-cent discount. I suppose they are charging 50 cents more to those who use disposable cups – cup half empty or half full question (excuse the pun).

It’s a decent penalty to use a disposable cup. An extra 50 cents per day means $1 per day for 2 cups per day coffee drinker which translates into a $365 grab of cash from the consumer’s pocket.

Is it a genuine concern for the environment or a cost cutting/revenue making exercise for Starbucks? Whatever the motive, it’s certainly a matter which should have come up for public discussion a lot earlier than now and now that it is here it has caused a great divide. ‘To plastic bag or not to plastic bag, that is the question’.

You see Penny Lane has also been doing this for a while now and charges customers 20 cents less if they use their own cups or mugs for coffee.

My reservation regarding the issue arises from the implication of the initiative on people with disabilities. Plastic straws are an important ‘apparatus’ for people with disabilities. People with illnesses like muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis need plastic straws to be able to consume liquid from cups easily.

Several disability support groups have raised their concerns with government so that in the plight to preserve the environment, the rights and welfare of people with disabilities are not impacted. It’s not really a matter that most people think about and that’s understandable. Unless you have a person with a disability in your family or circle of acquaintances, the matter may slip your mind without much thought.

 My point is that protecting the environment should be an important goal for all of us, but we must ensure that appropriate exceptions are in place for those people who require an alternative to maintain their quality of life.

It’s all about finding that right balance, but with such a divide, maybe it’s time for the government to step in and legislate.

Sounds reasonable. What do you think?