Starbucks is getting rid of single-use coffee cups, introducing a more communal model

Starbucks has a future vision — and it includes shared coffee cups.

Starbucks announced plans to phase out single-use cups from its stores by 2025 in favour of an entirely reusable model. The company detailed plans to accomplish its latest “planet positive goal” in a press release issued Tuesday by encouraging customers to bring their own personal cups to be refilled or by offering communal cups that guests are instructed to return on their next visit.

These communal cups would then be cleaned professionally in-store and distributed to other Starbucks customers, who would then repeat the process.

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“Innovation is how we will write our next chapter, advance our positive impact on the planet, and boldly reimagine our future together,” the company’s chief sustainability officer, Michael Kobori, stated in a statement accompanying the press release.

Starbucks has already conducted several pilot programmes in the United States and abroad in order to gain insight into customer preferences and behaviour. In Japan, Singapore, and London, for example, some stores have implemented a communal-cup model (dubbed “Borrow A Cup”) in addition to offering single-use cups. Meanwhile, 16 other shops in Korea do not offer single-use cups at all, preferring reusable communal cups, personal cups, or “for-here” drinkware — the latter of which is provided to customers who choose to consume their beverages in-store. Another “experiential” location in Shanghai sells exclusively made-in-Shanghai drinkware.

Starbucks has long offered a discount to customers who bring their own reusable cups, but it is unclear how the company will incentivize customers to adopt the communal-cup model — or whether stores will begin charging a deposit for communal cups — although the company has long offered a discount to customers who bring their own reusables. Starbucks confirmed in some tests conducted in the United States that it had charged an additional fee to guests who requested single-use cups, a practise that is already common in Starbucks locations in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Starbucks’ representative stated that the company was still experimenting with various incentives and disincentives to entice customers to join its reusable cup programme.

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