The great paper coffee-cup tower


Every morning, on his way to work, my boss buys an espresso from the Red Roaster. They serve it in two paper cups, presumably so he doesn't burn his fingers. In the afternoon, about three, he wanders off to buy another coffee.

When each drink is finished, he adds the cup to the stack on his desk. When the stack becomes large enough, he transfers the cups to a larger stack behind his desk. Four cups a day, twenty cups a week. That's about a thousand a year. He's been in the office over three years – you can imagine how many cups we have in the office.

The cups sit in a corner and I sometimes wonder what we should do with them. Should we return them to the red roaster? Put them on freecycle? Hold a Burning of the Cups Ceremony on the beach? Someone suggested making a sculpture and donating it to Fabrica.

The boss was late in on Friday. We decided to build a tower of cups, to see if we could reach the roof. We could. The column contains about 800 cups. For a day or so I felt satisfied that we'd finally done something with some of the cups. This morning, it doesn't seem enough.

What do you do with over 3000 paper cups?


The remains of an earlier tower. Look on my works, ye mighty, and all that.


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4 thoughts on “The great paper coffee-cup tower”

  1. at my old job they used to make us print on this bond stuff for the attached printers in our offices. came in a nice pretty box. after trying to get management to give us cheapo printer paper, which was lighter, came wrapped in paper and presumably was less environmentally taxing, i started saving the little cardboard mementos of another ream sacrificed to the printer. i put them in stacks, slowly, one by one, a silent prayer and protest. one stack rolling into another stack and then a third and fourth, until, by the time i first changed offices (maybe three years into my tenure) a good half of the wall was obscured by the boxes. there was always a reverent moment of silence — awkwardness and confusion followed by recognition and guilt — the first time someone new would come by my office, and i believe at one point it was brought to the attention of Management who very seriously considered reprimanding me. not the first nor, obviously, the last black mark on my record there, and in these paperless days a bit of an anachronistic protest, but a fond memory nonetheless.

  2. I suggest you buy your boss a thermal cup with a lid for xmas, then he can take his cup to be refilled thus not producing another tower. Your tower is a thing of beauty, but a reminder of how wasteful we are all because we can’t be arsed to wash up a cup/ or carry one with us. I think I’ll be getting myself a thermal cup to carry about with me too. 🙂
    A x

  3. Ayng
    It’s quite weird to see the piles of cups in the office. When the tower finally collapsed, it only just missed the new cup of espresso the boss brought in that morning. I suspect the piles will still be there (and be larger) in a couple of years time.
    See you for False New Years,

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