Around 400,000 people marched through Manhattan yesterday to send a message to world leaders regarding the dire consequences of climate change, and the urgent, desperate necessity of enacting sweeping reforms to stop it. It appears at least 150,000 of those people tossed away their paper Starbucks cups.
From the looks of it, much of what was heaved onto the ground by activists caught up in the fervor wasn't trash at all—a healthy amount of the detritus piled in the gutters was recyclable, indicating that attendees couldn't even be bothered to stuff their spent Gatorade bottles into their bags until they located the appropriate receptacle. (Which, to be clear, is a recycling bin.) Also, the coffee cups!
— Donna Freydkin (@freydkin) September 21, 2014
— Mythili Sampathkumar (@RestlessRani) September 21, 2014
And the signs!
— ☀SaltWaterGirl☀ (@DonnaBee511) September 21, 2014
Of course, the only real way to stop climate change is by overturning existing paradigms—agreements by governments to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions, regulatory changes to factory farms and the cessation of cutting down virgin forests. [Editor's note: We don't have data to compare the amount of climate march trash to trash generated by other large gatherings, so an alternative headline here could also be "Massive Crowd Leaves Some Litter."] There is also the possibility that the trash wasn't left by the activists but other passersby not involved in the march, most of whom are probably agents provocateurs employed by the New York Post.
— C (@chelsea_elisa) September 21, 2014
Still, it's a grim day when some of the city's most dedicated activists are blind to the impact of their own habits. Coffee cups are generally coated with plastic, which makes them neither recyclable nor compostable. Plastic cups and cans are recyclable, and letting them simply fall from your hand when you're done with them is not an acceptable means of disposal. Paper and cardboard make up over 40 percent of the solid waste sent to die in North American landfills. The square-footage of natural habitat lost making a 16-ounce paper cup with a sleeve is estimated to be .93 square-feet. In 2006, more than 6.5 million trees were cut down to make 16 billion coffee-specific paper cups for U.S. consumers, resulting in 253 million pounds of waste.
— Michelle Lhooq (@MichelleLhooq) September 21, 2014
Reusable coffee cups are cheap—Starbucks sells their version for $1. Stuffing it into your backpack, purse or murse can be a pain, but any additional back problems wrought from carrying an empty mug or bottle will be nothing compared to the back pain you'll feel when you're forced to spend the rest of your life treading water.
A Department of Sanitation spokesperson said that information on the amount of trash hauled from the march route will be available in the coming days, but that crews were "assigned to clean up after the march as with any event in the City." All of the trash was removed by Monday morning.
We've inquired as to whether additional trash cans and recycling bins were made available for the march, and whether the department's clean-up efforts entailed separating recyclables. We'll update this story when we hear back.