Starbucks wants to phase out iconic single-use cups with wash stations

Starbucks’ ubiquitous green-and-white mugs could be a thing of the past as the coffeehouse chain plans to urge people to bring their own mugs, company officials said Tuesday.

The Seattle-based chain claims it aims to create “a cultural movement toward reusable” by 2025 – by encouraging the public to buy their drinks in reusable containers instead of single-use paper and plastic cups.

Starbucks customers can use their own reusable cups at any Starbucks store in the US and Canada, regardless of the order – plain coffee or thin latte with extra foam and a drizzle of syrup.

Starbucks said it is considering multiple programs as it “moves away from single-use plastics” in the coming years. Michael Kobori, Starbucks chief sustainability officer, said the transition is part of an effort to become a “resource-friendly company.”

“This effort included setting ambitious targets for 2030 to halve our carbon, water and waste footprint,” Kobori said in a statement.

Stores in Japan, Singapore and London are piloting a “borrow-a-cup” service – where customers order drinks in cups to be returned to Starbucks, professionally cleaned and reused by other customers. Each buyer pays a $1 deposit, which is refunded upon return of the mug.

Starbucks cup washer
Some Starbucks stores will get their own cup-rinsing stations.
Joshua Trujillo/Starbucks

Starbucks is also conducting a pilot program in South Korea, with participating stores transitioning to “100% reusable operating models” that “entirely eliminate” single-use cups.

Other initiatives include the introduction of “cup washing stations” for personal cups, which are being piloted at Arizona State University campus cafes and some Hawaiian stores.

The company is also considering additional discounts — and fees — for US customers based on their participation. Starbucks has been offering a 10 cent discount on orders served in a personalized cup since the 1980s.

Trials include a 50-cent rebate for customers using reusable cups and a 10-cent fee for those who receive their drinks in a single-use container.

Starbucks reusable cups
Starbucks is urging its customers to switch to reusable cups.
Joshua Trujillo/Starbucks

Starbucks has been experimenting with reusable cup options in the recent past. For a number of years, the coffee house chain has been giving away a reusable version of its red holiday mug in a limited number.

The sustainability initiative is gaining momentum as Starbucks grapples with roadblocks affecting its business: A growing — but still small — number of Starbucks stores across the country have started organizing in recent weeks since one location in Buffalo was the first in the company’s history to organize. The move has sparked at times heated arguments between company officials and union leaders.

Starbucks is also defying the effects of inflation — with higher operating costs and stiff competition for workers. The company plans to raise prices in 2022 to offset some of that spending. Starbucks wants to phase out iconic single-use cups with wash stations


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