Last Updated on June 15, 2021 by Nick Baskett
Starbucks announced that it will introduce a unique reusable Cup-Share program in all stores across Europe, the Middle East and Africa by 2025 as a measure to reduce its consumption of single-use packaging. Despite the name, it doesn’t actually mean you’ll be sharing your latte with strangers; the initiative is actually focused on incentivising customers to re-use takeaway cups multiple times, rather than disposing of them after a single use.
There will be a trial in the next few months in the U.K., Germany and France. Based on customer feedback, local operations and regulations, the company will look towards gradually expanding the program to the rest of its 3,840 stores in 43 countries.
The Seattle-based coffee chain has pledged its commitment to cutting waste — including carbon emissions and water usage — in half by the end of the decade. Starbucks EMEA president, Duncan Moir, said:
We have set an ambitious goal to be a resource positive company and I believe we have a responsibility to give our customers new and unique options to integrate reusables in their day to day lives.
Moir went on to say “While we have made great strides in reducing the number of single-use paper cups that leave our stores there is more to be done and we must make reusability the only option, long term”.
The Cup-Share program plays a key role in the company’s progression towards this goal. It targets the current issues of the limited usage of reusable cups by customers, relatively few of whom have taken to the somewhat unwieldy ceramic takeout cups. Their solution was to design a new reusable takeout cup design that’s made from 70% less plastic than previous iterations.
As the design uses patented foaming technology, which creates a durable wall structure for insulation, it negates the need for a cup sleeve. Customers pay a small deposit for the reusable cup of their preferred size and can use it up to 30 times for hot and cold drinks. When returned to any Starbucks store, the customer gets their cash deposit back. Ideally, this will result in the increasing normalisation of reusable coffee cups, by lowering the cost and increasing convenience.
The company is not only encouraging its customers to opt for reusables, but also its employees to recycle. The primary goal is to develop a circular economy, and there are other initiatives already in place. One of them is the Starbucks Circular Cup merchandise, which is a reusable cup made from six single-use recycled paper cups.
In April, the company announced that they will eliminate single-use cups in South Korea by 2025 by introducing a similar cup program this summer that’s similar to the Cup-Share program. They will also be a surcharge for paper cup usage in several European countries, and additional discounts for customers using reusables, and offering more in-store ceramics usage.
It remains to be seen whether this latest push will be the eureka moment for re-usable cup adoption, or if the same barriers will prevent it from really catching on. At any rate, measures to further align customers’ economic incentives with the company’s wider sustainability goals can only be a step in the right direction.