Consider the Stircle. A new invention that aims to reduce the amount of waste surrounding your morning cup of coffee by replacing those wasteful stirrers with a small machine that spins your morning joe to mix in all your cream and sugar. Although what might be more interesting is to consider all the chatter the Stircle is stirring up.
First, let’s agree that disposable coffee stirrers are a real source of waste. They’re used once for a few seconds and then discarded. I couldn’t find an exact amount of waste generated by single-use coffee stirrers (Today’s Homeowner said that 138 billion were tossed every year), but if you consider there are 24,000 coffee shops in the U.S. and Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee a day, it’s easy to imagine the number of stirrers adds up quickly.
That’s where Scott Amron comes in. He’s a product designer and inventor of the Stircle. When you talk with Scott, you can hear that he really wants to try and make a positive impact on the world. “For years it’s bothered me that you use a stick or a plastic stick to stir your coffee,” said Amron, “it’s not just about the trash. It’s about the waste.”
Amron’s talking about all the resources that go into making, transporting and storing those stirrers. To him, those little sticks are a big problem.
So he invented a small countertop device that spins drinks around, stops, then reverse spins to mix them. Technically, according to Amron, the drinks aren’t just spun. Because people don’t put the drinks in exactly dead center, the contents rotate and oscillate. Plus, since the sides of the cup angle upwards, there is another dimension to the mix.
Amron says he built the Stircle with large coffee shop chains in mind and that the device can be installed by the milk and sugar for customers to use, or behind the counter for other drinks that need mixing by the barista. It requires a plug, and Stircles can be daisy chained, so multiple ones at a single location don’t each require a separate plug.
“You can stir 50,000 cups on ten cents of electricity,” Amron claims, “It requires very little money and very little energy.”
All this green stirring doesn’t come cheap, though. The cost of one Stircle is listed at $345. That seems high to me for a drink spinner. Plus, $345 is a lot of up-front money for large (and small) coffee chains who tend to think in the short term. Especially when that $345 (for one!) Stircle is up against a $5.65 pack of 1,000 plastic stirrers for a cost-conscious manager.
Amron published the Stircle video on YouTube earlier this month and the debate around it has been robust. Mashable thought it was “nifty,” Spruge hated it, and while TechCrunch was more positive, it called the device’s concept “ridiculous.”
Commenters have pointed out that a spoon, presumably many that are washed after each use, could achieve the same thing at a fraction of the cost. And it seems to me that even though the Stircle cycle is only 7 seconds, that would still cause a pile up of agitated people at the milk station, waiting to agitate their drinks.
But Amron may prove them wrong. He says he already has a number of customers, and part of the reason for the high cost is that he’s making each one to order. If it takes off, he can invest in manufacturing and bring that cost down.
All this aside, I’m more interested in the Stircle because of Amron. Unlike so many of us who have probably known forever that coffee stirrers are bad and kept on using, he is actually trying to do something about it. Even if he winds up just spinning his wheels.