Since I am an admitted Starbucks addict (skinny vanilla latte, thank you) I am often gifted with Starbucks gift cards by people that know me well. As much as I love to receive free Starbucks, I absolutely hate, abhor, despise that you cannot recycle the cards. I ask EVERY time I use one: "since my balance is zero, where can I recycle these?" Every time I ask this question, I am told that gift cards are not recyclable. I am offered the opportunity to re-load of course.
Now given that I know some of the folks at Starbucks working in this space, I will say that recycling gift cards is NOT.EASY to figure out. I know it's a huge challenge. The team there has done great work managing a very complex operations framework and have made significant strides in cup recycling, among other things. That said, after a meeting at a Starbucks store today where this conversation came up again, I was inspired to list a few other items I think should be made more recyclable. With that, my top 5:
1. (Starbucks) Gift Cards (see above) - also see what Starbucks IS doing around recycling. It's a lot!
2. Phone covers/cases: I recently upgraded to a new iPhone. It was simple for me to recycle my old iPhone via Apple's takeback program, but recycling my old phone cases? Impossible. I looked everywhere. I even tried to sell them on eBay for virtually nothing. I do not want to throw these suckers in the trash. There are great sites like Freecycle and Earth911 but I feel the need to collect more non-recyclable items before launching into that space of effort. For now I am holding onto them with the hope that some creative art project will inspire me to use them (unlikely).
3. Yogurt containers. What is it with the way our municipal recycling system works that most yogurt containers are still not recyclable? I have to visit my local Whole Foods to make it work. With my yogurt containers I bring my Brita filters. Don't throw those away people!
4. Televisions: Granted I spent about 2+ years working on electronics recycling issues but it just about kills me when I see people leaving their huge electronics (think 1980s projection TVs) out on the curb. Those will not be recycled and in fact most will end up in a landfill where harmful chemicals may leach into our land and water. Not good. There are many ways to recycle TVs (and other electronics) but for the big 1980s pieces, it is hard to manage without a good delivery service. Check out www.greenergadgets.com for more options.
5. Clothes: I am a frequent Goodwill visitor. I donate many times throughout the year. And with the great programs Goodwill has underway I feel good about utilizing their donation services. That said, when I read this story on NPR about a woman finding a man in Africa wearing one of her Bat Mitzvah t-shirts from 1993 it made me wonder if the system of sending used clothing around the world is entirely sustainable. I don't claim to have a better option and frankly, if there is a method of relying upon used clothing as a form of livelihood in underprivileged communities, I am thrilled. I am not entirely convinced that this is the best and most efficient market transformation method, however.
What do others think? What am I missing? Tweet me @jsonenshine with other thoughts. Perhaps we can make a few calls and change some systems. What do you think, Starbucks?