Starbucks Is Planning to Phase Out Its Single-Use Cups—Here's How It's Going to Work
Starbucks has big plans for the next eight years. Today the company announced it will phase out its single-use cups by 2030 as part of its plan to slash unnecessary waste and reduce its carbon footprint.
But that doesn't mean Starbucks staples like drive-thru service, order ahead and holiday cups will be going anywhere. The brand plans for all customers in the U.S. and Canada to be able to use their own cups no matter how they purchase their coffee by the end of 2023. Right now, Starbucks locations in Asia, Africa, Europe and the U.S. are piloting a cup-borrowing program that allows customers to put down a refundable deposit on a reusable cup—the way you would put a quarter in an Aldi cart.
In Europe, customers pay £1 for their cup, get a discount of 25p on their drink and, when the cup is returned, have their £1 refunded (by cash, Starbucks app or card). The cup then heads off to be professionally cleaned and sanitized before getting back into rotation at a Starbucks store. According to a media release, Starbucks launched the European reusable cup program in light of a British study that found that one-third of people don't use a reusable cup for hot drinks because they forget to bring it along. This program means you can still affordably take part in the reusable cup experience even when you don't have a cup with you.
In Singapore, a similar program is in place on a college campus, where there's no fee for renting a reusable cup. In South Korea, Europe, the middle east and Africa, Starbucks hopes to make the reusable program a part of every location by 2025. Right now, each program is a little different—including the names—so Starbucks execs can determine which models work the best.
"We have a bold long-term sustainability vision and ambitious goals for 2030," said Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson in a media release. "Starbucks partners around the world are passionate about protecting our planet and are at the very center of driving the innovation that enables us to give more than we take from the planet."
The cups being used in the Asian market can be used up to 30 times, which could put a pretty big dent in the company's volume of waste. In South Korea, where the program was piloted at four shops in Jeju, Starbucks estimates that 200,000 cups were diverted from landfills in the first three months. (In an interview with CNN, a Starbucks vice president of product experience said their newest version of the reusable cup could replace 100 cups.)
If you've been keeping up with the coffee chain's cup-related plans for a while, you might know that Starbucks' pivot to reusable cups started way back in 1985, when the company began offering a 10-cent discount on drinks when customers brought in a cup from home. And while some may be sad to see the end of Starbucks' red cup season, there's reason to believe that holiday cups will still be a big part of the company's identity. For the past four years, Starbucks has offered free reusable red cups once a year—so just be sure to mark your calendar in the future.
Based on what the brand is seeing at locations worldwide and stateside, customers find it easier than you might think to get on board with the company's sustainability goals. "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," said Kim Davis, who manages a store where the program is being tested, in a media 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."
We're looking forward to ordering our next latte or macchiato in a sturdy reusable cup—and since Starbucks was serving at least 60 million beverages each week as far back as 2012, it's easy to believe that axing single-use cups will make a big difference for the environment.