Starbucks Coffee isn’t just busy busting a quickly spreading and expensive union drive in the US; it is also aggressively working on eliminating one of its most recognizable brand items, the single-use coffee cup.
According to Starbucks, the brand aims to serve all customers using some form of reusable cup by 2025. Starbucks chief sustainability officer Michael Kobori says the firm will achieve this through a mix of customers bringing in their mugs for a refill or a borrowed cup, including a deposit-based to-go option.
“Our cup is ubiquitous, and we love that,” Kobori said to CNN Business. “But it is also this ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society.”
The timeline is ambitious, but Starbucks has explored alternatives to the non-recyclable single-use coffee cup for years. Experiments and investments have ranged from recycling programs, compostable packaging, and piloting bring-back cups. Starbucks has long encouraged customers to bring in their own wares by including small discounts on purchases.
Of course, the devil’s in the details, and Starbucks faces several challenges in providing a positive experience while eliminating single-use cups. The company must redesign entire workflows in-store to accommodate mobile app orders, drive-through patrons, and guests at the counter. Staff will have to be trained, changes communicated to consumers, and then roll it out globally in over 34,000 locations by 2025.
Kobori says that Starbucks has mock stores running different drive-though ideas, such as a drop-off point before ordering, cup washing stations in store-in, and pitchers to pour orders at the pick-up window.
Starbucks admits it shifted focus away from reusable cup initiatives in response to the pandemic and concerns over COVID transmission. In its latest Global Environmental and Social Impact report for the fiscal year 2020, Starbucks says that only 1.3% of orders in the US, Canada, EMEA, and Japan were served in reusable wares.
It would appear that java slinger has a considerable way to go by 2025.