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03/15/2018 16:08 EDT | Updated 03/19/2018 08:51 EDT

Calgary Kids Pressure Starbucks To Keep Recyclable Cup Promise

The company vowed to have environmentally friendly cups by 2015.

UPDATE: HuffPost Canada talked to Mya and Eve over the phone to find out what inspired the petition.

Two years ago, Mya overheard her mom talking about disposable cups and thought it would be a good idea to find out how many are thrown away per person per year.

Eve said she was struck by this idea because she saw a news story where they tracked disposable cups and found that most ended up in landfills.

"[Disposable cups] affect our earth and the environment. And the oceans get filled with garbage and plastic," Eve said.

Zhang Peng via Getty Images

Unless people start taking recycling seriously, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050, Mya added.

Even if Starbucks doesn't agree to a sustainability plan at their shareholders meeting next week, Mya said they hope the company will start thinking "about the environment and not just having some coffee."

"We hope that they will say yes to a fully recyclable cup," Eve said, "but if they say no, then at least people still know to at least bring a reusable mug."

UPDATE: HuffPost Canada spoke to Tim Gallant, senior communications manager at Starbucks Canada, about the company's efforts to have fully recyclable cups.

"Our Starbucks hot cup actually is recyclable where supporting recycling infrastructure exists. Starbucks cups are some of the most recyclable in the industry and we are proud of the work we've done to make them greener."

Gallant also noted that in North America, hot cups with 10 per cent post-consumer fiber have been approved since 2006, and in the U.K., customers are charged 5p for paper cups.

Original story:

Chances are you've had a Starbucks drink recently. After all, Canadians are known for their love of coffee, and it doesn't hurt that the chain is on nearly every city corner, too.

Starbucks' popularity is becoming a problem, though, as the company distributes roughly four billion disposable cups each year. These single-use items then end up in landfills because they aren't 100 per cent recyclable.

Now two 11-year-old girls from Calgary are hoping to change that.

Grade 6 students Mya Chau and Eve Helman launched a petition on Change.org in February after a science project opened their eyes to the shocking impact disposable cups had on the environment.

"We did some research and found that 430 billion single-use disposable cups are thrown in the trash each year around the world, this is about 140,000 each second," they wrote on their campaign page.

"The waste adds to the landfill and much of it gets incinerated which contributes to climate change. We asked people to bring their own reusable mugs; however, when we look around, many people are still purchasing their coffees without bringing their own mugs."

The girls aimed their petition at Starbucks, specifically, because the company had previously promised to have environmentally friendly cups by 2015, but never followed through. And in addition to that, the coffee chain isn't environmentally sustainable, as it cuts down one million trees per year to create disposable cups, which are not fully recyclable.

"In order to be able to hold liquids safely, Starbucks paper cups are lined with a thin layer of 100 per cent oil-based polyethylene plastic made by companies like Dow and Chevron," a 2017 report by Stand.earth noted. "This plastic lining makes the cups impossible to recycle because it clogs most recycled paper mills' machinery."

Recyclable paper cups without a plastic lining do exist, which begs the question: why hasn't Starbucks made the change?

HuffPost Canada reached out to Starbucks Canada for a comment, but they have yet to respond.

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So far, Mya and Eve's petition has garnered more than 170,000 signatures. Based on the petition's comments, it's clear that supporters are in complete agreement with the campaign.

"We need to be more aware of our impact on the economy and make this world a better place for us and our futures," supporter Monica Duguay wrote.

"Recycling a product that can be used again is a no brainer," Chad Horton added. "Why not be apart of 'making a difference!'"

Canadians drink 14 billion cups of coffee each year, according to a report by the Government of Canada, and in 2010, it's estimated that Canadians used 1.5 billion disposable cups, CBC News reports.

These numbers are staggering, which is why Mya and Eve aren't the only ones who have started a petition asking Starbucks to follow through on their promise to be more environmentally friendly.

Stand.earth, SumofUs and Greenpeace have also launched their own campaigns and will be presenting their petitions — alongside Mya and Eve — at Starbucks' 2018 annual shareholders meeting in Seattle on March 21.

"Starbucks doesn't think it should have to report on its sustainability measures because the coffee giant argues it has already done enough. But the mountains of Starbucks trash accumulating at dumps worldwide and polluting our oceans tell a different story," Ross Hammond, the U.S. campaigns director at Stand.earth, told HuffPost Canada via email.

"We want Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to know our campaign to get Starbucks to solve its plastic trash problem is only going to grow — and we won't accept any more empty promises."

Mya and Eve's efforts have contributed to this global campaign asking Starbucks to lead by example and create a 100 per cent recyclable cup. In addition to the thousands of signatures gathered so far, the petitions have received support from David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, actress Fran Drescher, and Canada's very own Margaret Atwood.

"Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, we know you care about the environment and can be a leader since Starbucks is in the whole world," Mya said about the petition. "Please consider making a fully recyclable cup, one that can be recycled everywhere."

Starbucks' website notes that they "get more customer comments about recycling, particularly our cups, than almost any other environmental issue." But while the company has made some effort to reduce waste through offering a 10-cent discount to customers using reusable cups and hosting Cup Summits to find better recyclable packaging, it hasn't been enough to make an impactful change.

Mya and Eve's meeting with Starbucks' shareholders comes at an appropriate time, as March 21 marks the International Day of Forests and March 22 celebrates World Water Day.

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