Starbucks has a dramatic new plan to ditch disposable coffee cups

Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain in the world and it's also one of the greatest producers of waste. The company uses more than 8,000 coffee cups per minute, which adds up to four billion a year. Over 1.6 million trees are harvested...

Starbucks has a dramatic new plan to ditch disposable coffee cups


Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain in the world and it's also one of the greatest producers of waste. The company uses more than 8,000 coffee cups per minute, which adds up to four billion a year. Over 1.6 million trees are harvested every year to make its disposable cups.

Since the cups are lined with plastic only four cities in the U.S. will accept them for recycling.

Starbucks has attempted to address this issue in the past by making bold proclamations that it will reduce its waste production, but unfortunately, they have yet to yield substantial results.


In honor of Earth Month, Starbucks has announced a new pilot program that aims to significantly reduce the amount of waste it generates. The new Borrow A Cup program launched in five Seattle stores allows customers to order their drink in a reusable cup for a $1 deposit.

When they return to the store they can drop the cup off at a kiosk and have their dollar returned and earn 10 rewards points. For some perspective, 25 rewards points gets you a free add shot in your coffee.

New Test: Borrow a Cup, Save a Cup www.youtube.com


The company will also pick up cups at customer's residences through a Seattle-area service called Ridwell.

The cups picked up by Ridwell or dropped off at the kiosk will be sanitized so they can be reused. Starbucks says that each reusable cup will prevent 30 disposable cups from being deposited in landfills or washed out into the ocean.

Should the company expand the program, it would reduce its global waste production by up to 50%.

"We believe it is our responsibility to reduce single-use cup waste," Starbucks chief sustainability officer Michael Kobori said in a statement. "We will lead the transition to a circular economy."

While the Seattle pilot program sounds promising, the company is also making drastic changes in South Korea where the government has banned plastic cups for dine-in restaurants. It's also recently introduced a bill that will force fast-food restaurants and coffee shops to charge a deposit fee for disposable cups.

Over the next four years, the company aims to phase out all single-use cups in South Korea. As part of the phase-out, the company has started a program in Jeju that allows customers to pay a small deposit for a reusable cup that they can return to a contactless kiosk.

"Starbucks's decision to end its reliance on throwaway materials and implement a reuse program in South Korea is the kind of approach we have been waiting to see," John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA, said in a statement. "There is no reason that Starbucks cannot expand this same reusable kiosk technology to its stores in the United States and around the world to ensure a much greater impact as quickly as possible."

It takes time to change consumer habits, but recent plastic bag bans in California, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York have shown that over time, consumers will learn to use reusable items. So, if the same logic holds up for coffee drinkers, it would bode well for Starbucks' future efforts to reduce the amount of waste it produces.