Starbucks wastes millions of liters of water a day

Coffee giant's running-tap policy shows that they are not as green as they like to lead the world to believe; in fact, less than green...

by Michael Smith

We simply must not get blinded by greenwash. Many companies engage in that, including companies that were supposedly set up with green and ethical views.

An investigation by the British “newspaper” The Sun revealed that over 23.4m litres of water are poured down the drains of 10,000 outlets worldwide due to a policy of keeping a tap running non-stop.

This is enough daily water for the entire population of Namibia in Africa of two million, which has severe droughts. Or it is to fill an Olympic pool every 83 minutes.
A single Starbucks tap left running for just over three minutes wastes the amount of water one African needs to survive for a day in drought conditions. Water waste like that is not just rather unfriendly to the environment it, in fact, borders on the criminal.

Each Starbucks has a cold tap behind the counter that runs into a sink known as a "dipper well", which is used to wash utensils.

Under the company's health and safety rules, staff are banned from turning the water off because management claim that a constant flow of water prevents germs breeding in taps.

Water companies joined green activists in criticising the firm for harming the environment and wasting a vital natural resource. Experts said leaving taps running for hygiene reasons was "nonsense".

Starbucks in the UK is wasting an estimated 1.63m litres a day – enough to supply Matlock village in Derbyshire with water. The taps of those “dipper wells” left on, as said, for all the time that the shops are open, and that is about for an average of 13 hours daily, and the water is not being recycled.

This is an absolutely astonishing waste of water, especially for a company which prides itself on its green credentials. Maybe we, the consumers, should go and tell Starbaucks what we think of their not so green credentials by voting with our feet.

Speaking to staff at Starbucks outlets around the world, the Sun found that many did not use the running tap or even know what it was for.

This is not the first time the Seattle-based firm has come under fire over its social and environmental credentials. In 2006, the Guardian reported how the US coffee giant has used its muscle to block an attempt by Ethiopia's farmers to copyright their most famous coffee bean types, denying them potential earnings of up to £47m a year.

As a result, Starbucks negotiated an agreement with the Ethiopian government to give the country more ownership and a better price for its coffee beans.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008