How many times have you passed a city trash can overflowing with coffee cups and thought to yourself, “Damn, do the Olsen twins live around here?” Even in Greenpoint, where trash bins have been replaced by Big Belly solar compactors, you’ll often see the green beasts serving as unwitting Starbucks counters. What’s it going to take to end the scourge of empty cups? Does Camelbak need to come up with a coffee version, so baristas can pipe the brown stuff straight into our backpacks? Should we all start snorting caffeine in powder form?
All food for thought when Greenpoint dance center Triskelion Arts presents Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, a butoh performance piece dedicated to making us a little less likely to buy a second latte just because we forgot to Instagram the first one’s foam art. Butoh, in case you’re unenlightened, is a Japanese form of avant-garde dance that doesn’t shy away from the grotesque. Performers are often entirely in white and move almost in slow motion, as you can see in this video of a previous performance of Wake Up.
Some 1,500 used coffee cups were used for that performance, put on at Triskelion last year. For this one, taking place during Earth Day weekend, budoh specialists Vangeline Theater have partnered with GreeNYC to present an updated show, supplemented with panel discussions about waste. Not only will the programs be printed on recycled materials, but sustainable coffee mugs will be available for those who’ve been shamed into breaking the chug-and-toss cycle.
Actually, other cities are waking up and smelling the proverbial coffee. In the notoriously java-happy city of Sydney, Australia, at least one law firm is participating in a pilot program wherein thousands of disposable cups– which have a plastic lining that would otherwise prevent recycling– are being diverted from the landfill and turned into useful polymer. Starbucks–which has more than 200 stores in New York City– launched a similar program in 2008 but the economics of it were so challenging that, five years in, customer recycling had only been implemented in 39 percent of its stores. Now the coffee giant’s UK stores are experimenting with a new form of cup that’s easier to recycle, CNN reports. According to that report, an estimated 60 billion paper cups end up in U.S. landfills, and it takes 20 years for each one of them to decompose.
In New York, you can actually recycle coffee cups with plastic linings, so long as they’re empty and clean. So the least you can do is hold onto that empty until you find a blue bin.
As for your chronic coffee breath, let’s address one problem at a time.
“Wake Up and Smell the Coffee,” April 20-22 at Triskelion Arts, 106 Calyer Street, Greenpoint; tickets $16.