On an average day at Keene State College, roughly one thousand students will buy coffee at the Starbucks on Campus. Starbucks ice drinks are served in a container made from plastic type five, a low grade plastic that is not recyclable at Keene State College.
Keene State Eco-Reps work to educate students on sustainable habits and proper recycling. During freshman orientation, Eco-Reps shared information about the sustainability opportunities at Keene State.
“One of those opportunities that we have is our recycling program,” Eco-Reps Ambassador Madelyn Thomas said.
R.O.C.K.S is Keene State’s on campus recycling organization and manages the disposal and recycling at Keene. Matthew Bacon is the Recycling Coordinator at Keene State College and manages R.O.C.K.S.
“On campus, we send our material to the Keene Transfer Station. The Keene Transfer Station can only recycle ones and twos. Plastics threes through sevens, we are currently landfilling,” Bacon said.
Starbucks ice drink cups, plastic lids and plastic straws are not recyclable at Keene State. Recycling plastic types three through seven is very expensive and requires shipping to a recycling plant in the midwest. The cost and the carbon footprint involved with recycling those types of plastics prevents it from being an option at Keene State.
“It’s the consumers job to regulate their own trash,” sophomore environmental studies major Sean Smith said.
“We have to stop thinking just throw it in there and forget it, because every piece of trash that you’ve thrown away is still here,” Smith said.
“In the nineties, we had a lot of low level, low grade plastics being produced domestically, so these are plastics three through seven,” Bacon said. “We had established this trade system with China, so they were willing to take those low level plastics and figure out how to recycle them.”
According to a 2018 article from National Geographic, China has imported forty-five percent of all plastic waste produced since 1992. In July 2017, China announced their National Sword Policy which bans the importation of certain types of waste and recyclables.
“The economy in the recycling market is recoiling domestically. What people are assuming is within the next five to seven years, the domestic market will open up and we either no longer be producing threes through sevens or we will have a domestic recycling system for threes through sevens,” Bacon said.
Starbucks plans to have completely phased out the use of plastic straws by 2020. The company now offers recyclable, paper straws and metal straws to reduce wastage in that area.
“A lot of big plastic lobbying companies are turning away from plastic. We just had Coca Cola and Pepsi decide that they’re going to leave the plastic lobby and find alternative methods for packaging,” said Bacon.
According to Coca Cola’s 2018 Sustainability report, one of the company’s three fundamental goals is to, “Make our packaging 100% recyclable globally by 2025—and use at least 50% recycled material in our packaging by 2030.”
“Recycling itself is really good, but one of the number one ways that you can be sustainable is reducing overall,” Thomas said.
The on-campus Starbucks offers a discount on hot and iced coffee purchases to students who bring a reusable mug.
“The best alternative I could say, and this I would hope everyone on campus knows, if you buy a reusable mug, a refill at Lloyd’s or Bean and Bagel only costs $1.50,” Bacon said.
Kelly Regan can be contacted at