Starbucks Will Begin Phasing Out Single-Use Cups This Year, Switching to Reusable Cup Program
In an effort to be more environmentally conscious, Starbucks announced a new initiative that includes phasing out single-use paper and plastics and introducing a reusable cup program in six markets around the world.
The company said that by the end of next year, customers in the U.S. and Canada can use their own personal reusable cups at Starbucks, including at the drive-through and for mobile orders.
"Our goal, by 2025, is to create a cultural movement towards reusables by giving customers easy access to a personal or Starbucks-provided reusable to-go cup for every visit, making it convenient and delightful to reuse wherever customers are enjoying their Starbucks Experience," the company said in a press release.
Last year, Starbucks began testing its "borrow-a-cup" program at five Seattle-area stores. For $1, customers could opt for a reusable cup that they could use and return to the store, where they'd be reimbursed for their $1 and the cup would be cleaned and sanitized. As an extra incentive, customers would also receive "bonus stars" on their rewards profile.
Apparently, the program was enough of a success that the company is now expanding it to additional stores in the U.S., the U.K., Japan and Singapore.
“Customers were just so excited to try something new, and my partners had a lot of pride in testing it and giving that feedback to make the program even better,” one store manager said in the release. “I do think that everyone really does want to contribute to a better world, and if we can help them do that one cup at a time, that is our mission right there.”
The basic idea itself isn't too revolutionary, as Burger King introduced a similar pilot program for its food packaging and drinkware, and other fast food companies have put in place more environmentally conscious measures to limit plastic waste.
But the scope, scale and timeline—a company as large as Starbucks completely eliminating single-use cups at its stores within three years—is unlike anything we've seen yet in the restaurant industry.
Starbucks is making moves to phase out its disposable paper and plastic cups by the end of next year. pic.twitter.com/cKRarJVsxw
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 16, 2022
As part of the initiative, Starbucks is also encouraging customers to bring their own cups. That might be a big ask for other companies, but Starbucks already has a fairly robust economy built solely on its reusable cups. A shift away from single-use cups could help the company sell more of its already-popular tumblers and other drinkware.
With each special release, there's a whole resale market just like streetwear products, where people try to collect the latest designs. Starbucks doesn't see any money from that, per se, but they do get the profits from the initial buyers looking to resell or collect for themselves. So, there's a real incentive for Starbucks to now amp up its reusable cup business, since it'll be the primary means of consumption.
In Japan, Starbucks even collaborated with Kate Spade for co-branded drinkware and tote bags. The line includes tumblers and mugs featuring New York City landmarks and spring-themed imagery.
At the rate limited-edition Starbucks items are gobbled up by the caffeinated masses, this will likely go quick and resurface on places like eBay. And then we'll see them at Starbucks locations when people bring them in for their daily fix.
In the near future, companies will likely start phasing out single-use plastics and paper the same way cities and whole countries did with single-use bags. For places like Starbucks that allow customers to bring their own drinkware, that could lead to greater demand for branded products that customers can buy once and reuse again and again.