The Starbucks Plan to Minimize Waste

Starbucks plan to minimize waste includes reusable programs and alternatives to disposable cups.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Starbucks plan to minimize waste includes reusable programs and alternatives to disposable cups. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Starbucks plan to minimize waste has been tested in phases since 2022.

In 2022, Starbucks announced a company goal to reduce waste sent to landfills from stores and direct operations. The goal was to reduce waste by 50% by 2030. Part of Starbucks plan to minimize waste is to move away from single-use plastics and promote reusability to shift towards a circular economy. It is said that 40 percent of Starbucks’ annual packaging is attributed to disposable cups. Moreover, these cups account for 20 percent of its waste footprint.  

The Starbucks plan to minimize waste focusses on reducing its environmental impact; the coffee company hopes to create a cultural movement towards reusables by giving customers easy access to personal or Starbucks-provided reusable to-go cups that can be used in their cafes, drive-thrus, and mobile order and pay.  

The Starbucks plan to minimize waste includes several reusable programs to help achieve its goals. They have been testing these programs in phases since 2022. Their Borrow a Cup program allows customers to order their drink in a designated Starbucks reusable cup. The cups are designed to be returned to the stores after use, professionally cleaned, and then reused by other customers. This project is being tested in Seattle, Japan, Singapore, and London.  

In 2022, Starbucks implemented 100% reusable operating models, eliminating single-use cups completely. They tested this in 12 stores in Seoul, which helped to divert more than 200,000 disposable cups from the landfill. In early 2023, Starbucks tested their 100% reusables operating models at stores at Arizona State University. They also implemented return bins across the campus near garbage and recycling bins to collect the borrowed cups.  

The Personal Cups & For-Here-Ware initiative encourages customers to bring their own cups. Starbucks began testing this initiative at their experiential Greener Store in Shanghai. Furthermore, Starbucks has been developing ways to incentivize customers to bring their own cups. This includes offering free coffee or discounts to customers who bring their own cups. They’ve also partnered with the Ocean Conservancy to donate 1$ to the organization if customers bring in their clean, reusable cups. At their Arizona State University campus stores and cafes in O’ahu, Hawaii, they have started implementing washing stations so customers can have their cups cleaned before ordering their beverage.  

Because disposable cups are still in circulation, Starbucks is looking at ways to make the cups more sustainable and out of better materials. They are working on doubling the hot cup recycled content and reducing the materials required to make the cup and liner. The paper used for their hot cups will be sustainably sourced and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Over $5 million has been invested to develop a more sustainable hot cup. By the end of 2023, Starbucks will have eliminated PFAS from all of their packaging. Starbucks has already switched from plastic straws to compostable ones in stores across the globe.  

The Starbucks plan to minimize waste is still in the trial phases of its programs. It needs to address a few concerns, including the best ways to collect and wash the cups and especially to figure out the best ways to encourage bringing the reusable cups back and not simply throwing them away. Moreover, they need to figure out how to make the lids of their hot cups recyclable and compostable and to encourage people to throw the contents in the right places.  

It is encouraging to see a big company like Starbucks working to reduce waste and be more environmentally friendly in the ways they do business. Hopefully, Starbucks’ plans to minimize waste will influence more coffee shops around the world tol follow suit and help us reduce plastic and disposable cups and promote reusable alternatives.  

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