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This cup monster is part of an effort from an environmental group to pressure Starbucks to use fully recyclable cups. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

As Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson took the stage this morning to kick off the 2017 GeekWire Summit, a giant structure with bloodshot eyes, made of more than 500 used Starbucks coffee cups loomed over the Seattle Sheraton, and his name is Grounds.

This “Cup Monster” was made by a group based in Bellingham, Wash. called, which has been putting pressure on the coffee giant to use “100 percent recycled or tree-free cups.” The effort is called the “Better Cup” campaign. The group is dressed in faux Starbucks gear, but is not affiliated with the company and has been handing out fliers and cups.

“If Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is serious about transforming his company into a tech leader, he must first solve his company’s biggest environmental liability: the 8,000+ cups that go into landfills every minute of every day,” Ross Hammond of, said in a statement. “We hope Seattle’s tech leaders will join us in calling on Starbucks to stop serving 21st century coffee in a 20th century cup.”

Starbucks cups have a plastic coating on the inside, which allows them to hold up under the heat from coffee, but that makes them unable to be recycled in some areas. Linda Mills, Starbucks vice president of communications, told GeekWire that its cups are recyclable in several large markets, including Seattle, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. It is working with other cities to ensure that its cups can be more widely recycled.

Starbucks is working to make its cup more recyclable, Mills said. One example is a goal of doubling the amount of “post fiber” material in the cups from 10 percent to 20 percent.

“We have high quality standards at Starbucks to ensure the safety of the cup, to make sure it’s heat protected, to make sure that it’s going to be a good customer experience,” Mills said. “We are open to looking at solutions but also working with municipalities to make sure that our recyclable cup can be accepted in more municipalities.”

Editor’s Note: is using a banner and cards that mimic the branding and logos of the GeekWire Summit, but GeekWire is not affiliated or involved in the group’s efforts.

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