Easy, Eco-Friendly Finds for Everyone. Shop Brightly!

Starbucks Has a New Plan for Phasing Out Its Single-Use Cups

Starbucks is tackling waste from disposable cups. Here's how it plans on phasing out single-use cups and getting consumers on board.

Written by
Angelica Pizza

Starbucks is known for its extensive coffee menu featuring frappuccinos, cold brews, matcha lattes, and more. It's most people's go-to for on-the-go coffee, hence why the company's signature single-use cups are the face of the brand. However, this may not be the case anymore: Starbucks has plans to encourage customers to bring their own reusable coffee cups.

Starbucks' iconic mermaid logo isn't the only thing that's green. While it still has a lot of work to do on the sustainability front, it was one of the first coffee chains to make dairy-free milk more accessible to customers on a global scale. It has also set goals to reduce carbon emissions as a result of dairy production.

In addition, Starbucks has sourced 100% renewable energy for its more than 9,000 stores in the U.S., Canada, and EMEA since 2015. And it has pledged to go carbon neutral and reduce its waste by 50% by 2030. Now, Starbucks hopes to eliminate the need for single-use cups to decrease waste.

The truth is, most single-use takeout cups and containers simply aren't recyclable—even if they claim to be. And Starbucks recognizes its environmental impact and wants to change that: It currently sells 4 million coffee drinks per day, and most of those cups wind up in landfills.

The only question is: How is Starbucks going to do this?

Starbucks' Plan to Decrease Waste

According to Starbucks, the company has goals to reduce waste sent to landfills from stores and direct operations—which means moving away from single-use cups and promoting reusability. The company also hopes to cut its carbon, water, and waste footprints in half by 2030.

To do this, Starbucks plans to promote reusable cups, mugs, and tumblers by making these options more convenient to customers who are on the go. By 2025, Starbucks hopes to "create a cultural movement toward reusables by giving customers easy access to a personal or Starbucks-provided reusable cup." The company is currently testing different reusable cup programs.

The first program the company is trying out is a borrow-a-cup program. Customers will be able to order drinks in a reusable Starbucks cup. Then when customers return to the cafe, they give back the cup to be cleaned and reused. This method has been tested in Seattle, Japan, Singapore, and London.

Another method Starbucks is testing is a 100% reusable operating model. This model eliminates single-use cups entirely, promoting the use of personal, reusable to-go cups or in-cafe mugs. This method has been trialed in 16 stores in South Korea, diverting about 200,000 disposable cups from landfills in just three months, according to the coffee chain.

Some Starbucks cafes are also testing a completely sit-and-stay model of operation. Instead of taking your coffee to go, you can sit and use an in-house mug—similar to how most dine-in restaurants and cafe options operate. These Starbucks locations would also encourage customers to bring personal, reusable cups if they still prefer to grab a coffee on the go.

To make these options more appealing to customers, Starbucks plans to implement incentive programs. This includes unique promotions, financial incentives, and new customer experience upgrades.

"Since the 1980s, Starbucks has offered a $.10 discount to customers who have brought in their reusable cup," reads the press release. "We’re launching different financial tests across the U.S. this year ranging from a $.10 single-use fee to a $.50 discount."

What You Can Do

While Starbucks' plan to reduce waste is still in the works, there are steps you can take to decrease the amount of waste you produce in your daily routine. The first step is using your own reusable cup. These cups can be brought to your local Starbucks and filled with a beverage of your choice.

Check out our top picks for reusable coffee cups, including the Huskee Sustainable On-the-Go Coffee Cup featured in the Brightly Shop.

You can also make your at-home coffee routine more sustainable. How? Invest in eco-friendly machines, ditch paper filters or single-use pods, and compost your coffee grounds. Every step you take makes a difference.