You use it for all of 4 seconds. Then, with a flip of the wrist it’s tossed into the garbage. With an estimated 400 million cups of coffee sold each day in the US, that’s a lot of little plastic and wooden sticks whose usefulness lasted no longer than it takes to delete this blog post from your browser window. Worldwide, some 138 billion plastic stirrers (not to be confused with straws) are reportedly thrown out each day.
Who invented the convenient coffee stirrer? At Answers.com I got a brief response to the question: An idiot. And a further attempt at researching this topic quickly on the internet brought an equally unhelpful answer. Coffee Stirrer Central, a fun site to peruse, claims the earliest record of coffee stirrers dates back 13,000 years to paintings on France’s caves of Lascaux where two warriors are depicted fighting over the ownership of a coffee stirrer. Hmmm.
Perhaps I needed to simply check on the definition of stirrer. Wiktionary.org brought back an enlightening result for the noun: “(slang) A person who spreads rumours or causes agitation. Why would you say something so hurtful like that? God, you are such a stirrer!”
If I told you most plastic stirrers are made of polystyrene, a.k.a. styrofoam, a known carcinogen, would that deter you? Amazingly, we put that stick of styrofoam into our hot coffee and swirl it around to give us the taste we think we want! It was only June of 2011, when the US Health Department listed polystyrene as a carcinogen. That means it can cause cancer, among other ills.
REDUCE YOUR USE
Today’s tutorial to help you kick the coffee stirrer habit is brought to you by my avid java jockey husband. In this scenario, please imagine you’re pouring your own coffee into your reusable mug at your favorite cafe (this method, sadly, won’t work for lattes, cappuccinos, and other coffees made by barristers. For those drinks we suggest you either skip the sweet stuff or stash a wooden stirrer and use it throughout the day. How hard is that?)
Step 1: Pour or spoon your sugar in the bottom of your mug.
Step 2: Pour hot coffee into said mug only half-way. The hot coffee on the sugar should quickly dissolve it if you swirl it around 5 times.
Step 3: Add your cream(er) and swirl another 2 times.
Step 4: Add the remaining coffee… No stirrer!
If you have to use a stirrer, should you use a wooden one instead of plastic? If you want some funky green-metrics on plastic vs. wood stirrers, envimpact.org says when it comes to environmental impact, wood wins.
REPURPOSE AND REUSE
So you still have a lot of coffee stirrers kicking around? Here are 7 things you can do with them to prolong their usefulness outside the landfill.
1) Use them to mark your seedlings.
2) Use wooden stirrers as popsicle sticks for your frozen creations. Here’s a delicious tutorial we found at createliveblog.com for carrot cake pops using coffee stirrers:
3) Turn your wooden ones into an interesting mosaic. But, for goodness sake, don’t buy new ones, just collect them, wash them, and you’re on your way.
4) Transform your plastic stirrers, like P.S.-IMadeThis.com, into a swank necklace fit for Cleopatra.
5) Another variation on the necklace theme is presented by studs-and-pearls.com.
6) Artist, Nick Sayers, created a dodecahedron (that’s a 12-sided geometric shape) out of 630 coffee stirrers.
7) If you have patience and a whole lot of artistic talent, like Studio Verissimo, you could turn your coffee stirrer collection into a chandelier, as featured at Inhabitat.
As for future alternatives to the dilemma of facing a more sustainable life without coffee stirrers, other than using our own finger as stirrer, perhaps we should follow 007’s lead and simply take our coffee shaken, not stirred.
For more reduce & reuse ideas on coffee stirrers, visit our Trash Backwards app: