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Starbucks’ reveals its efforts to making coffee cup consumption more sustainable

by | Jan 25, 2024

Starbucks has been developing a way to make coffee cup consumption more sustainable and this pathway involves three key elements. These components appear in three separate ideas concerning the cup’s design, allowing customers to use their own cups and sharing recyclability data between their stores.

The first of these ideas, designing the cups, involves manufacturing the cups themselves, as well as the straws and lids, in a way that enables them to be recycled or makes them compostable. The second idea, accepting consumer’s cups is already in operation across North American stores and it means that consumers can order a ‘to-go’ coffee and have it made in their own re-usable, refillable cup. The third and final idea involves the Starbucks stores collecting and sharing recyclability data between their stores, which opens up the chance to improve their services and push their drive for recyclability further.

Currently, the well-known coffee company has already started their move towards a more sustainable future. This can be seen in the single-use fibre cup design, which is made out of 30% post-consumer recycled content. Also, their lightweighted hot cups contain 10-20% less plastic than other brands offer, with some of their stores already offering entirely compostable fibre-based cups. Continuing their environmentally friendly cup design initiative, the sleeve that the stores sell is now manufactured with the use of 85% recycled material, whilst its latest lid design enables the need for a plastic straw to be removed entirely. In some cases, a straw is necessary, however where this does apply, Starbucks has ensured that the straw supplied by them is made of either compostable material or paper. This design in itself has already hugely benefitted the environment and helped to cut down on single-use plastic waste.

Aside from making their takeaway cups better for the environment, the company has decided that all the US-based, company-owned stores that have café seating available, provide the option to serve ‘for-here’ cups. This creates the opportunity for customers to drink their coffee in the café and alongside this choice, a recent decision was made, which stated that the use of returnable cups would be trialed. This trial will involve thirty tests across more than twenty global markets and it will focus on the use of returnable takeaway coffee cups.

The idea for this trial, follows another environmentally friendly change the company made, this time involving allowing customers to use their own cups for a takeaway coffee. All across North America customers are now able to take their re-usable cups to a café or drive-thru and their takeaway drink will be made in their cup for them.

Aside from adaptations and changes they have made to their cups and serving policies, Starbucks has also made a large investment, worth $10 million in Circular Services, to the improvement of recycling infrastructures in the United States. This highlights how committed Starbucks is to reducing plastic waste and increasing recycling rates. The company’s overall aim is to ensure that by 2030, all of their cups are 100% either recyclable, compostable or reusable, whilst also being made from 50% less material derived from fossil fuels and instead, sourced from 50% recycled materials. They hope that their efforts will bring the concept of reuse closer to becoming a contributor to the creation of a circular economy.

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