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Starbucks trials reusable cup program in Seattle

Starbucks reusable cup

Starbucks will run a two-month borrow-and-return cup trial in five Seattle stores as part of its ongoing commitment to reducing single use cup waste and goal to reduce waste by 50 per cent by 2030.

The trial program allows customers to order their beverage in a reusable cup, each replacing up to 30 disposable cups. Starbucks has partnered with Seattle-area service Ridwell to offer customers an at-home option to return their borrowed cup.

Building on learnings from single-store tests this Fall and Winter, Starbucks is scaling its Borrow A Cup program to five stores in Seattle from 30 March to 31 May 31 2021. The program provides customers the option to receive their beverage in a reusable cup and return it at a participating store’s contactless kiosk or at-home through a Seattle-area service called Ridwell.

“Promoting reusability is an important part of Starbucks goal to reduce waste by 50% by 2030,” says Michael Kobori, Starbucks Chief Sustainability Officer.

“We understand the interdependency of human and planetary health, and we believe it is our responsibility to reduce single use cup waste. We will lead the transition to a circular economy.”

Starbucks says the challenge will be to make choosing reusables as convenient as customers expect from Starbucks, with no extra steps, especially with 80 per cent of Starbucks beverages being enjoyed on the go.

Customers can order their hot or cold beverage in a newly designed reusable cup in-person at a participating Starbucks Café or Drive-Thru or via Mobile Order and Pay.

Customers simply tell their barista they would like their drink in a reusable cup and then pay a US$1 refundable deposit.

When customers are done, they scan their cup at a participating store’s contactless return kiosk located in the lobby or drive-thru and drop the cup in the designated opening in the kiosk. Then, they scan their Starbucks App to receive a US$1 credit to their Starbucks Rewards account, in addition to 10 Bonus Stars.

Starbucks continues to observe elevated cleaning and sanitizing protocols that meet or exceed public health guidelines and can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For the Borrow a Cup program, Starbucks has partnered with Go Box, a reuse system operator and service provider, to collect borrowed cups from stores daily, professionally clean and sanitize them using commercial dishwashing equipment, and put them back into circulation within 48 hours.

“Reducing waste through reuse is an important way to support a transition to a more circular economy. Since our launch in 2010, Go Box has been working to develop systematic processes and infrastructure to scale reusable packaging for food and drink to go,” says Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell, CEO of Go Box. “We’re thrilled to be partnered with Starbucks to ensure the Borrow A Cup program is a safe and sustainable choice for your favourite beverage.”

In addition to exploring scalable options to reduce single use cup waste, Starbucks has acted through powerful partnerships, including with Closed Loop Partners and its NextGen Consortium and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. These initiative act to increase their impact and to research and test solutions that will make cups, lids, and straws easier to recycle and compost.

“Starbucks Borrow A Cup program is an important step in advancing circular packaging solutions and reuse models that reduce our reliance on single-use materials and keep valuable resources in play for as long as possible,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners.

“As a Founding Partner of our NextGen Consortium, which advances the design, commercialisation, and recovery of sustainable packaging alternatives, Starbucks is helping to pave the way for a waste-free future for the foodservice industry.”

Starbucks continues to make progress globally, as well. For example, Starbucks Korea just announced a commitment eliminate single-use cups from all Korean stores nationwide by 2025.

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