Starbucks is the first UK coffee chain to introduce a national “latte levy” – a 5p charge on single-use paper coffee cups – in a bid to reduce the overuse and waste of 2.5bn disposable cups every year.
Following the success of a three-month trial in London, the chain said it would roll out the charge to all of its 950 stores in the UK from 26 July.
The initiative means its customers will have to pay an extra 5p on the cost of any drink in a single-use paper cup in a bid to encourage them to switch to reusable mugs or tumblers.
Customers using reusable mugs already receive a 25p discount off any Starbucks drink, while those drinking in-store are encouraged to use ceramic cups.
Starbucks worked on the pilot with the environmental charity Hubbub, which carried out the evaluation. It revealed a 126% rise in the use of reusable cups in participating stores, measured by the number of customers redeeming the reusable 25p cup discount.
“We saw encouraging results from the first three months of this trial with Hubbub and what stood out to us was the positive response we had from our employees and customers,” said Martin Brok, the president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“Extending this to all our stores across Britain is an exciting step and we’re hoping this charge will remind customers to rethink their use of single-use plastic as they have with plastic bags.”
Disposable cups cannot be recycled by normal systems because they are made from cardboard with a polyethylene liner that is difficult to remove. As a result, just one in 400 cups is recycled. Half a million coffee cups are dropped as litter each day in the UK.
In January, MPs on the environmental audit committee called for a standard 25p to be charged on top of the price of all hot drinks bought in single-use cups amid mounting concerns over coffee cup wastage.
Other coffee chains, including Costa, Greggs, Paul and Pret a Manger offer discounts to customers who bring in refillable cups, but Starbucks is the first to actively explore the impact on consumer behaviour of a charge for the use of paper cups.
On Monday, Starbucks announced plans to eliminate single-use plastic straws globally by 2020, making a strawless lid a standard on all iced coffee, tea and espresso beverages. This new lid has already been launched in 150 stores across Europe, Middle East and Africa and will reach all stores through a phased rollout.
The proceeds of the 5p levy will be invested in further work to support recycling and sustainability efforts with Hubbub.
“Single-use plastics is an issue that has become more significant in people’s minds than ever before,” said Trewin Restorick, Hubbub’s chief executive and founder. “We look forward to discovering what more can be done to encourage people to use reusable cups.”
By Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent
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