Former barista confronts Starbucks CEO at annual meeting over plastic pollution

Plastic pollution coalition delivers petition signed by 973,000; Cup Monster star of streetside protest

Starbucks Shareholder Meeting Petition Delivery

Activists with the “Starbucks: Break Free From Plastic” coalition gathered today at the Starbucks annual shareholder meeting in Seattle, delivering a petition signed by more than 973,000 people calling on the coffee giant to take accountability for its contribution to the growing plastic pollution crisis. View the photos and videos.

In Indonesia, Taiwan, Philippines, and countries around the world, organizations participating under the Break Free From Plastic global movement protested outside Starbucks stores and met with store managers to talk about the company’s plastic pollution problem. 

Inside the meeting, Shiloh Britt, a former Starbucks barista from Bellingham, WA, made an emotional appeal to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to commit to following through on the company’s recent pledge to make a recyclable, compostable cup. View the video.

“In my five years as a Starbucks barista I personally served over 65,000 cups of Starbucks coffee, and most of those cups ended up in the landfill. Mr. Johnson, this is Starbucks third pledge to address its cup issue. Can you give us your word that Starbucks will live up to its commitment?” -Shiloh Britt, former Starbucks barista and Stand.earth volunteer

In response, Johnson said the company “remains committed” to the goal and repeated Starbucks’ claim that the cup is recyclable, despite paper cups only being accepted for recycling in four major cities in the U.S., with no public information about how many cups actually make it through the recycling process and are repurposed.

Flanked by the 12-foot-tall Cup Monster, people in trash and cup costumes, two 11-year-olds from Canada who collected 300,000+ petition signatures, and green boxes filled with 973,000+ petition signatures — the coalition celebrated Starbucks’ recent announcement on recyclable and compostable cups, while drawing attention to the company’s failed commitments on increasing reusable cup usage and eliminating plastic straws and other plastic packaging. View the petition delivery video.

“Someday soon, we hope the Cup Monster can truly go into retirement. Starbucks just pledged to fix its 4 billion throw away cups per year problem — but since the coffee giant has made similar promises before, we’ll be here to hold CEO Kevin Johnson’s feet to the fire on keeping this new commitment.” -Todd Paglia, Executive Director, Stand.earth

“Starbucks said they’re going to use $10 million to find a solution for a better cup. We also want Starbucks to give more incentives for customers to bring cups from home and to get better at offering in-house ceramic cups to customers if they’re staying in to drink coffee.” -Mya and Eve, 11-year-olds from Canada who collected more than 300,000 petition signatures on Change.org

“Starbucks needs to address its plastic problem. By 2050, scientists predict our oceans will have more plastic than fish by weight. Meanwhile Starbucks’ ‘sustainable cup plan’ says nothing about promoting reusable cups or reducing its masses of single-use plastic straws, plastic lids, cutlery, and other plastic packaging.” -Emily DiFrisco, Plastic Pollution Coalition

“While Starbucks has pledged to commit $10 million into engineering a better cup, they must commit to reusable incentives at the same pace. 1.8% of customers bringing their own cup is simply unacceptable for effective corporate responsibility. Investing in more disposable cups still supports the throw-away society more than a zero waste initiative." -Lauren Moore, UPSTREAM

Shareholders hear sustainability proposal

Also inside, shareholders heard a sustainability proposal from corporate responsibility group As You Sow asking Starbucks to address its plastic pollution problem by developing stronger efforts to move toward sustainable packaging. Starbucks leadership urged its shareholders to vote “no” on the proposal, despite the proposal being supported by a significant number of shareholders, according to As You Sow. The vote will be disclosed within three days.

Presenting the proposal was actor, filmmaker and UN Goodwill Ambassador Adrian Grenier, the co-founder of Lonely Whale and its “Strawless in Seattle” campaign. Grenier is an outspoken advocate on the marine debris crisis. 

“I am asking that Starbucks truly shoot for the moon and aggressively address its growing global plastic footprint. A footprint far larger than a cup. Starbucks taught the world how to drink coffee. I firmly believe that Starbucks can teach the world how to make the environment its ultimate business partner.” -Adrian Grenier

About “Starbucks: Break Free From Plastic” 

The coalition includes 5 Gyres, Care2, Clean Water Action, CREDO, Change.org, Greenpeace USA, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Stand.earth, The Story of Stuff Project, SumOfUs, Texas Campaign for the Environment, UPSTREAM, Hannah4Change, Captain Planet Foundation, Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation, Plastik Diet Kantong, Heirs to Our Oceans, Wild at Heart Taiwan, Jack Johnson’s All At Once community, StudentPIRGS, Project Coyote, and a variety of organizations participating under the Break Free From Plastic global movement. 

Follow the coalition on social media using #StarbucksTrash and #BreakFreeFromPlastic.

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Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Stand.earth, virginia@stand.earth, 510-858-9902