Civic technology

Starbucks as Neighborhood Recycling Infrastructure…

Starbucks has become akin to public community infrastructure– from caffeine to public bathrooms to neighborhood "third place." 

And like a public utility or other infrastructure, it’s a nearly ubiquitous presence in the USA and, increasingly, around the planet.

Thus it has immense power to create and propagate new programs that support and leverage communities in neighborhoods around the USA.

I find myself asking what new services– and what new memes- a self-professed socially responsible business like Starbucks could take on next…

How about recycling?  If Starbucks already recycles the immense amount of waste it generates (does anyone know if it does– if not, it sure as heck should), then why stop there?   If it used its ubiquity to become the neighborhood catalyst and organizer for recycling on every block in the country where there is a Starbuck’s then it could have a massive impact that would be empowering for local businesses and their communities and their customers around the country.  Great PR, a great service to our planet, and even potentially a good new business in its own right (recycling can be lucrative in many markets).   

Why not?



4 thoughts on “Starbucks as Neighborhood Recycling Infrastructure…

  1. Well, perhaps something like this:

    1) Starbucks gives employees 5% paid time (a la Google’s 20% time) to do community service in the neighborhood of their store.

    2) The first “service” project is to figure out how they can help all the businesses in their neighborhood recycle better. This will vary from city to city, State to State, so it needs to be a localized solution. It could range from simple evangelism (encouraging other businesses to recycle) all the way up to figuring out how to scale the Starbuck’s recycling infrastructure (the bins, the trash pickup service, etc.) to accommodate the entire neighborhood.

    3) Regardless of the specifics of the solution, Starbucks could encourage its clientele– the residents of the neighborhood– to also volunteer to help make the program work– and to patronize those other neighborhood businesses that choose to participate.

    This is just off the top of my head. Other ideas?

  2. Right on, Andrew! I can totally picture this working, as long as this type of social responsibility becomes embedded in the Starbucks ethos. Even though their reputation as a corporate citizen is sort of sketchy, they have at least made some movement toward fair trade coffee recently.

    I’ve always had the feeling, though, that places like Starbucks are so wasteful. I don’t usually go to Starbucks, but the ones I go to always give you the joe in the paper cups, even if you’re a sit-in customer. What’s up with that?

    Re: recycling – I sent an email to Starbucks corporate and asked them if they do. Will let you know what they say.

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