San Jose Says ‘Bye Bye’ Styrofoam

Bye bye styrofoam! San Jose just banned it, becoming the largest city in California to do so. It’ll be gone from “large businesses” by 2014, small businesses have til January 1, 2015.

San Jose Approves Styrofoam Ban

The San Jose City Council passed a ban on styrofoam food containers Tuesday. The goal of the ban is to help protect the environment and keep styrofoam, a product that takes a long time to degrade, out of local landfills and waterways.

Early one morning, years ago, I dashed into my favorite coffee house for my regular cup of java. After a long wait in line, I was finally rewarded with a cup of hot Arabian mocha java. But something had changed .The comforting china cup, that I once cradled warmly in my hands, was gone, replaced now by the cold, indifferent, Styrofoam cup. I thought, perhaps, the server hadn’t understood me, so I repeated myself. “One coffee, for here.”

“I know,” she said, and continued to fill the styrofoam cup with my favorite morning brew. >

“No china cup, I asked.”

“No” she replied, cut’s down on the overhead. No cups to wash.”

Now, I don’t mind giving up some things to the changing times, such as the telephone that no longer rings, but beeps or vibrates, the microwave that zaps my dinner without an aroma, or having to spend $10.00 to see a movie, and $3.00 for a box of stale popcorn. These are changes I can accept, but some things just shouldn’t be messed around with, and coffee served in a china cup is one of them.

Modern technology is constantly creating new and improved products for the consumer’s convenience. With each new invention that comes along we sacrifice a bit of the world we once knew. The mouth watering aromas of fried bacon, for instance, now zapped without smell in our microwave, and likewise our popcorn and herbal hot teas. >

Through the years, these pervasive, but subtle changes, have affected our daily lives. Like most people, I’ve become so accustomed to them that I’ve lost notice of their arrival or the departure of the devises they have replaced. >

I can accept the alarm clock that sings me to sleep at night and shouts me awake in the morning, the automated phone system, that answers my questions without me once speaking to an actual person, the car with a voice that reminds me to buckle my seat belt, soup in a box and spaghetti in a can. I can accept all of these changes, if I must, but please, oh please, don’t serve me coffee in a Styrofoam cup!

I don’t know, exactly, when Styrofoam came along, but the paper cup was invented in 1910. Later, someone had the idea to wax the paper cup for hot beverages. Soon after that, paper products invaded the diner.

Soda shops of the 1950s replaced the Coca-Cola glass with cone shaped paper cups that fit into plastic and aluminum holders. Milk bottles, soft-drink bottles, milk creamers, milk shake glasses, and the ice cream sundae bowl, eventually were supplanted by Styrofoam, plastic and paper goods. >

But, up until now, the china coffee cup remained sacred. Coffee, as everyone agreed, was meant to be sipped from a warm, china cup, (saucer optional), anything else would be heathen. >

I miss those old-fashioned diners, the kind I knew as a kid, before Arby’s, Burger King, and Mcdonalds’s came along, bringing with them the disposable cup.

Ever since Walter Scott of Rhode Island, in the 1870s, originated the horse drawn lunch wagon, selling coffee and sandwiches to the city’s late night workers, the American public have enjoyed the habit of grabbing a quick cup of coffee during working hours.

Beaneries, cafeterias, eateries, chophouses, grills, or luncheonettes, whatever you called them, there was usually one on every corner of town with a huge, industrial size coffee maker. The mirrored diner was a favorite Saturday and after school stop; it’s stainless steel, neon lighted signs and aroma of freshly brewed coffee beckoned us. Coffee was a dime and free refills were cheerfully served.

The atmosphere was warm and friendly at the corner diner, and the cheerful waitress talked my ears off while she refilled the salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowls, ketchup bottles, and ceramic milk creamers. On cold, frosty mornings, the first thing I wanted was a comforting cup of hot coffee served in a warm cup I could wrap my hands around.

Eventually, a newer generation came along, one that was more concerned with time. They couldn’t resist the speedy 15 cent burger, wrapped in wax paper, bagged in foil and ready to go in minutes. They accepted the 10 cent cup of coffee served in a paper cup.

By the late 1960s, the old-fashioned diner and the leisurely cup of coffee had faded from the scene.

Sitting in a fast food shop today you won’t hear the sounds of glasses, dinnerware, cups or stainless steel clinking and rattling in the kitchen. And you won’t see ketchup bottles, sugar bowls, salt and pepper shakers, or creamers being filled. Today, we serve ourselves these condiments from stockpiled cartons, filled with food flavorings, proportioned and hermetically sealed for our convenience in tiny, plastic envelopes – empty containers that find their way into our storm drains and local creeks.

As their name implies, fast food shops are focused on getting customers in and out as soon as possible. The clatter of dinnerware has been replaced by the dull crumpling sound of cardboard wrappers and paper being wadded up and tossed away. Where some of it end’s up is anyone’s guess. >

The invasion of the paper cup inspired the hit broadway tune , “The Trouble With the World Today is Coffee in a Cardboard Cup”. To that I add these words of advice, “On cold frosty mornings, don’t bother trying to warm your hands around a hot cup of coffee served in a Styrofoam cup- it can’t be done.

Cookie Curci is an experienced freelance writer, born and raised in San Jose, California. Cookie writes syndicated columns across the country, and wrote a “Remember When” column for The Willow Glen Resident for 15 years. Her work has been published in 15 Chicken Soup for The Soul books, and in the series of “Mother’s Miracle” books ( Morrow books).

She has a short story in the new book “ELVIS”, Live at the Sahara Tahoe; has been published in San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury news, Woman’s World, Primo magazine, Mature Living, and many websites.

Cookie is currently writing for several Italian American newspapers and magazines, they include LaVoce Las Vegas, Amici Journal, L’italo Americano, Life in Italy and Italiansrus.