Starbucks’s iconic disposable cups on the way out


Starbucks is moving away from its iconic white paper and clear plastic cups, introducing borrow-a-cup programs, and allowing customers to use their own re-usable cups.

The announcement came just ahead of Starbucks’ 30th annual shareholders meeting, which saw the retirement of long-time CEO Kevin Johnson and a re-commitment to shareholder returns and sustainable initiatives.

“Our cup is ubiquitous, and we love that,” said Michael Kobori, Starbucks Chief Sustainability Officer. “But it is also this ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society.”

Starbucks’s goal is for every customer to have the option to use reusable cups by 2025 and is testing a number of models around the world to support that aim.

The borrow-a-cup program has been trialled in different iterations at Starbucks stores in the United States, Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Customers pay a small deposit to take a lightweight polypropylene cup, which they can return to a collection bin in-store in exchange for a deposit refund and company rewards.

The used cups are cleaned and returned to the store by a third-party company, creating minimal additional work for Starbucks employees.

The borrow-a-cup model are the least disruptive to customers’ daily routines, which Starbucks believes will encourage up-take.

However the program requires initial investments and on-going expenses, and it remains to be seen which models Starbucks will support across global markets.

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