Starbucks hot cups are deceptive: although they look like they’re made of innocent, recyclable paper, they’re actually coated in plastic, which makes them pure, unadulterated, unrecyclable trash. To its credit, Starbucks realizes this is a problem and vowed back in 2008 that it would solve the problem by 2015. This has not happened. Still, the effort continues: last year Starbucks began testing compostable coffee cups in five cities worldwide. Unfortunately, this was right when the pandemic arrived in Europe and North America, which kind of put a cramp in things. (Although Starbucks did remain steadfast in its mission to do away with plastic straws.)
But now Starbucks is trying again. This time, it’s a program to get customers to use reusable cups. CNN has the details. Reusable cups are by request only, and cost a mere $1, in the form of a refundable deposit. When a Starbucks junkie returns the cup, they’ll get a $1 credit on their next order, plus 10 Bonus Stars in their Starbucks Rewards accounts. Should a customer not wish to go back to Starbucks, a partner company called Ridwell will pick up the cup at their home. Each cup will be washed and sanitized before it goes back into circulation. This is similar to a program initiated by Blue Bottle Coffee, a much smaller chain, back in 2019.
Meanwhile, in South Korea, Starbucks plans to do away with all disposable cups by 2025. This is not just a decision made because of environmental concerns: South Korea banned disposable cups for dine-in customers in 2018 and a recently introduced piece of legislation would require reusable cups at all chain restaurants and coffee shops. Starbucks customers in South Korea will also pay deposits on their reusable cups and return them to special kiosks.
When Blue Bottle introduced reusable cups, its CEO predicted that it would be a money-losing venture at first because of all the people who would walk off with cups (which, presumably, cost more than the $1 deposit fee). Since then, Blue Bottle has not released any updates about the program. However, given that Starbucks is a daily habit for so many people, and that there are so many Starbucks locations, perhaps Starbucks junkies will be less forgetful.