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Ask Charlie | November 01, 2009

Q: Can you help me green my coffee shop?

Q: Dear Charlie,

I am a barista in a Seattle coffee shop. I would like to make sure we are recycling as much as we can but only those things that can be recycled. I have specific questions about disposing of odd coffee shop items like receipt paper and whip cream canisters. Can you help me green my coffee shop?


A: Calling all Baristas!

The following scenario is probably all too familiar. You’re topping off that delicious hot chocolate with whipped cream, and slowly but surely you run out of gas and that fluffy topping is barely sputtering out. You take out the empty cartridge, glance left at the trash bin, then right at the recycling bin. As an eco-conscious barista, what is one to do!?
Coffee shops are full of odd disposable items. CleanScapes' Waste Diversion team did an audit for a local coffee shop and answered several questions about how to dispose of common coffee shop waste. Read on to find out how to green your coffee shop!


The following simple steps will maximize your staff's ability to divert waste from the garbage into the recycling and compost:


Here's a cheat sheet for disposing of all those tricky coffee shop items (If you do not use CleanScapes for Recycling, contact your hauler for a list of accepted items):

Empty Whipped Cream Cartridges

If the canister is plastic, that has to go in the trash.

If you have steel or other clean ferrous containers, toss them in the recycling and rest assured they will have a second life. All clean ferrous scrap metal less than 2’x2’x2’ can be put in your recycling container. Think of your steel CO2 cartridges as an especially dense soup can.

* UPDATED * Cups & Lids

Paper cups can be recycled, but only if they are empty. A little latte residue is okay, but any more than that causes too much contamination at the recycling facility. Clean plastic cold drink cups also are recyclable as long as they are empty. If you can't pour liquids out of a cup before disposing of it, then that cup belongs in the garbage.

For information about compostable cup products, visit

Plastic lids that cover paper or plastic cups can be recycled, as long as they are over 3" in diameter.

Straws and Straw Wrappers

Straws cannot be recycled, so toss them in the garbage. Paper straw wrappers are recyclable, while plastic straw wrappers are garbage.

Receipt Paper

Tear off that long tape of receipt paper and aim for the recycling bin. Clean paper is recyclable in Seattle.

Juice or Lemonade Boxes

Many coffee shops buy juice, lemonade or other drinks in boxes or cartons lined with foil. CleanScapes now accepts these for recycling.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee is your business and disposing of coffee grounds should be the easiest green decision you make all day. We know you're busy -- keep a food waste container next to your coffee machines so you can make the right disposal decision without thinking.

Lining the food waste can with a compostable bag will help keep the container clean and could save you a step at the end of your shift.

Plastic Food Containers

CleanScapes now accepts all clear, rigid, plastic food containers and plastic-coated paper box containers. Salad containers, sandwich containers, past get the picture. Make sure these are clean before you recycle them.


Ceramic Dishes and Mugs

Usable ceramics can be donated or resold. Look into local thrift shops, or Broken ceramic dishes and broken glass go in the garbage.


Plastic Wrap

CleanScapes accepts clean, dry plastic wrap for recycling.


recycling  composting  waste reduction  seattle 


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