Starbucks is moving away from single-use coffee cups, introducing a more community-based model


(NEXSTAR) – Starbucks has a vision for the future – and it includes common coffee cups.

Starbucks has announced plans to reduce the use of single-use coffee cups by 2025 in favor of reusable models. In a press release on Tuesday, the company detailed plans to achieve its latest “positive planetary goal” by encouraging customers to bring their own personal cups to fill, or offering communal cups that customers would be asked to return when of their next visit.

These communal cups would then be professionally cleaned at the store and provided to other Starbucks customers, who in turn would repeat the process.

“Innovation is how we will build our next chapter, advance our positive impact on the planet, and boldly reimagine our future together,” said Michael Kobori, the company’s chief sustainability officer, in a joint statement. to the press release.

Common cups would be cleaned in store before being provided to other customers. (Starbucks)

Starbucks has already tested several different pilot programs in the United States and abroad, hoping to learn from customer preferences and behavior. In Japan, Singapore and London, for example, some stores have adopted the common cup model (also called “Borrow A Cup”) in addition to offering single-use cups. Meanwhile, 16 other stores in Korea don’t offer single-use cups at all, but rather reusable common cups, personal cups or “for here” glasses – the latter being provided to customers who choose to take advantage of their drinks in store. Another “experiential” place in Shanghai only offers drinks for here.

It’s unclear how Starbucks will get customers to adopt the communal cup model — or whether stores will start charging a deposit for its communal cups — though the company has long offered a discount for customers who bring their own reusable items. In some tests on US sites, Starbucks confirmed that it has charged additional fees to customers who request single-use cups, which is already standard practice in Starbucks stores in the UK and Germany.

A Starbucks representative said it is still testing various incentives and disincentives to onboard customers with its reusable cup program.

Tuesday’s announcement marks a dramatic departure from policies Starbucks was required to adopt at the start of the pandemic, when the company was temporarily unable to allow customers to use their own reusable cups between March 2020 and June 2021. After reinstating the practice, Starbucks adopted a new process whereby reusable cups were placed in ceramic mugs, which were then handled by its baristas.

By setting its reuse goals for 2025, Starbucks is also addressing a longstanding problem with its paper cups, which are only recyclable in certain U.S. municipalities. Over the past few years, Starbucks has been working toward a more sustainable cup — with plans to redesign the cup or find a solution from the recycling industry side — but the process continues.

“Increasing the recycled content of our hot mugs is a long-standing commitment and an area where we can continue to lead,” read part of Tuesday’s press release.

A previous version of this story suggested that single-use cups would be removed from Starbucks locations altogether; a Starbucks representative clarified that single-use disposable cups will still be available when reusable models are adopted.


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