Starbucks’ Reusable Cup Initiative: Moving towards 50% Waste Reduction

Starbucks’ Reusable Cup Initiative: Moving towards 50% Waste Reduction

Thomas Reiner | 21.02.2024

Starbucks has recently expanded its reusable cup policy across company-operated and licensed stores in Canada and the United States, a development that aligns with the company’s goal of halving its waste by 2030. This initiative marks Starbucks step forward as the first national coffee chain in Canada to fully integrate personal cups into all service formats, including mobile orders.


Customers can now bring their own reusable cups to any Starbucks café, drive-thru, or for mobile orders in both Canada and the United States. In cafes, customers can hand over their reusable cups to baristas when ordering. For drive-thru orders, a contactless vessel system is employed for the exchange of personal cups, ensuring hygiene and safety.

Starbucks app users can indicate their preference for a personal cup in the customization menu. Upon arrival at the store, customers can hand over their cup to the service personnel.

Additionally Starbucks offers a $0.10 discount for customers in Canada who use reusable cups, applicable to all beverage sizes and types. However, customers must ensure their cups are clean prior to ordering, as Starbucks employees cannot rinse them.


Starbucks’ Vision and Goal

Through the initiative Starbucks reports, it has become the first national coffee retailer in Canada to enable the use of personal cups for all drinks in all sizes when ordering on mobile and hopes by this means to help phase out single-use plastics and transition into reuse on a wider scale. The move is expected to bring the company closer to its goal to a 50% reduction in waste by 2030.

Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at Starbucks states, that the company envisions a future where every beverage is served in a reusable cup. According to Kobori the customers are passionate about the planet, and now, they can join Starbucks in the efforts to give more than we take, no matter how they order.

Context and Industry Perspective

Starbucks’ transition to this new policy was modeled after a successful test in its Colorado drive-thru stores and informed by insights from the Starbucks Tryer Innovation Lab and other pilot locations throughout the USA.

Already in 2022 Starbucks tested a returnable cup program in Europe, where consumers could use a reusable cup for a refundable deposit. The deposited money was refunded when the container was returned to be cleaned and reused.

Starbucks has been named among other members of WWF’s ReSource: Plastic programme to have decreased their use of ‘problematic’ plastics between 2021 and 2022, although it is thought that the plastic weight in their aggregate portfolio continued to rise.

Parallel to Starbucks’ there are other initiatives in the field. For example, the Coca-Cola Company is conducting reusable packaging pilots, including a collaboration with start-up r.Cup to bring reusable polypropylene cups to various venues in the United States.

Reuse: The logic step, out of legislative pressure

Starbucks’ comprehensive adoption of reusable cups in its service formats demonstrates a logical approach to waste reduction in the food and beverage gastronomy/retail industry. While the approach is showing a leap in the direction of Starbucks sustainability Goals, it also reflects an industry-wide shift towards reuse practices and systems not least because of growing legislative pressure regarding avoidable plastic waste in the food service industry. The success of such policies hinges on customer participation, efficient reverse logistics and the adaptability of the business model, suggesting a possible future where reusable options become a standard in consumer behavior.

Image Source: © Starbucks

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