Starbucks welcomes personal reusable cups for all orders as a move towards sustainability. The company announced an expansion of its personal cup program to include drive-thru and mobile app orders, starting Wednesday. This development is a part of the company's broader initiative to reduce waste and promote reusable alternatives.
Since 1985, Starbucks has allowed customers to use their own cups for in-store orders. However, this option was temporarily suspended during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 2021, Starbucks reinstated this practice for in-cafe orders. The latest expansion to include drive-thru and mobile orders represents a notable shift in the company's approach to environmental sustainability.
"Beginning Wednesday, Starbucks is adding the reusable cup option to drive-thru and Starbucks app orders," the company stated, marking a "milestone" move.
For drive-thru orders, customers will inform the barista about their personal cup during ordering. The staff will then use a "contactless vessel" to transfer the drink to the customer's mug at the pickup window, ensuring hygiene and safety.
For mobile orders, a new "personal cup" option has been added to the customization section in the Starbucks app. Customers can place their order, bring their mug to the store, and receive their drink in a similar contactless manner. However, Starbucks notes two caveats: the cups must be clean, as baristas won't rinse them, and cups larger than 40 ounces are not accepted.
This expansion is significant as drive-thru and app orders account for approximately 70% of sales at U.S. stores operated by Starbucks. The company's traditional hot cups, made of both plastic and paper, are difficult to recycle. Hence, Starbucks aims to reduce its waste output by 50% by 2030.
To accommodate this change, Starbucks has made adjustments to their preparation process. For instance, drinks will be made in custom containers with "standardized lines [employees] need for measurements" before being poured into personal cups. This initiative, while aiming to reduce waste, also strives not to overburden employees, who are already managing complex, customized orders rapidly.
Kate Daly, Managing Director and Head of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, commented, "As we know, the most sustainable cup is likely the one you already own."
She added, "Bringing your own cup to stores is a critical step toward reducing single-use packaging waste."
Starbucks also emphasized the financial incentives for customers using personal cups.
"Each time they use a personal cup customers will also receive a 10 cent discount and 25 stars if they’re members of the chain’s rewards program," the company mentioned.
This discount applies up to three times per day at participating locations.
Starbucks is also updating its menu for 2024, introducing items like the Iced Hazelnut Oatmilk Shaken Espresso and a vanilla bean custard Danish. Returning favorites include the Pistachio Cream Cold Brew and Pistachio Latte, alongside seasonal offerings like the Peppermint Mocha.
Starbucks' decision to expand the reusable cup program reflects its commitment to sustainability and adapting to evolving consumer preferences. While there are logistical challenges, the initiative is a step forward in the company's long-term goal of reducing waste and promoting environmental responsibility.