Starbucks Is Launching a Borrow-A-Cup Program to Reduce Waste

published Apr 12, 2021
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Credit: Sergey Kohl

With fast food and coffee chains cutting down on their single-use plastic and opting for recyclable alternatives, Starbucks is trying to do one better. The coffee franchise is launching a borrow-and-return trial in the Seattle area to see just how much the company can cut down on plastic waste.

According to the Starbucks blog, the company currently has a goal to reduce its waste by 50 percent by 2030. To do so, Starbucks is trying a new program in which customers can order their coffee in reusable cups, each replacing about 30 disposable cups.

The Borrow A Cup program, which is being implemented in five Seattle Starbucks stores between now and May 31, works like this: First, a customer orders their drink, either in-store or via drive-thru, and opts for a reusable cup and puts down a $1 deposit.

Then, when the customer is done with their drink, they can return their cup to a participating Starbucks store by scanning the barcode on their cup at a contactless kiosk (located in the lobby or drive-thru). They can then scan their Starbucks App to get back their $1 deposit, which will be added to their Starbucks Rewards account, as well as 10 Bonus Stars.

Finally, the cups will be cleaned and sanitized with help from GO Box, a reuse system operator and service provider. Cups will be collected from kiosks daily, professionally cleaned and sanitized with commercial dishwashing equipment, and put back into stores within 48 hours.

Starbucks also partnered with Ridwell, a service that collects recyclable items from customers’ homes, giving Starbucks lovers another avenue to return their reusable cups.

Starbucks has offered greener alternative to single-use cups since the 1980s, with a clause in their policy that allows customers to bring their own cups from home and receive a discount. Yet, single-use cups are still the majority vehicle for Starbucks coffee, so the hope is that the Borrow A Cup program will make it even easier for their customers to lessen the amount of waste produced.

“Starbucks Borrow A Cup program is an important step in advancing circular packaging solutions and reuse models that reduce our reliance on single-use materials and keep valuable resources in play for as long as possible,” Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, said, per the blog post.

Hopefully, the trial run of the Borrow A Cup program will show huge success so that Starbucks can roll out the system nationwide sooner than later.