Starbucks cups have long been a source of low-level guilt and stress among its customer base, because while the paper material of the cup is recyclable, the plastic lining inside that prevents coffee from leaking out is not. The most guilt-ridden among us have made a habit of bringing along a reusable tumbler for Starbucks baristas to fill instead (for a $0.10 discount!). But as of last week, coronavirus concerns eliminated that option. For those who are five seconds away from straight-up requesting that baristas pour the coffee directly into their open mouths, some good news: A new paper cup that’s actually recyclable is finally coming to Starbucks.
The Wall Street Journal reports that select cafe locations in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, and London rolled out a prototype of a new cup this week that uses an interior liner made of compostable material rather than plastic. The design of the cup was the winner out of 12 prototypes evaluated by the company. Best case scenario, no customer will be able to tell the difference—and if that’s the case, maybe it’ll roll out to additional locations soon. The WSJ notes that packaging accounts for over half of the waste generated by Starbucks each year, so this change could have significant positive environmental impact... if customers can train themselves to recycle the cups now, rather than throw them out.
This is also an unfortunate illustration of how slow-moving the machinery of industry can be in enacting change. Starbucks initially announced back in 2008 that all of its cups would be reusable or recyclable by 2015. Now, it’s aiming for 2022. Instead of holding our breath, maybe we should all just start traveling with bladder canteens that can be filled up with 12, 16, or 20 ounces of Oatmilk Honey Latte.