Canvas totes came for our plastic bags. Then metal straws—or just no straws at all—came for our plastic straws. Now, a coffee-stirring machine hopes to replace coffeeshops’ ubiquitous wooden or plastic stirrers in the name of environmental friendliness.
Unfortunately, the device is called the Stircle, but let’s try not to hold that against it. First mentioned by Mashable, this machine would enable coffeeshops to permanently replace the estimated 400 million stir sticks consumers throw away every day. The Stircle looks like a low plastic bowl, and it rotates your cup around like a turntable; first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. It eliminates the waste associated with stirrers, and its website says it could reduce cross-contamination behind the espresso counter by enabling baristas to stir drinks without using one spoon for multiple drinks.
A writer for coffee website Sprudge can’t quite get behind the Stircle, though, calling it “overdesigned” and pointing to the machine’s hefty price tag: $345 to $490, depending on the model. (Author Zac Cadwalader notes a box of 1,000 stirrers costs about $3. Could we not just use reusable spoons?, he wonders.) But later he points out the Stircle isn’t about cost, it’s about eco-friendliness and reducing the amount of junk that goes into landfills.
The specialty coffee industry has long kept a close eye on the environmental and social impact of its products, which is why we see organic, fair-trade, and Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee on shelves. So for coffeeshops concerned with reducing the amount of trash bound for landfills, a few hundred dollars might be worth the sustainability win. I’ve seen dried pasta used a stir stick at coffeeshops, which though biodegradable seems like a waste of edible food. I guess reusable spoons use water for rinsing and cleaning, and aren’t as flashy as the “look at me” spinning Stircle. I’m on board with the device; we just really need to do something about the name Stircle.