Starbucks takes sustainability concerns seriously as the company is trying to figure out the best solution to completely eliminate disposable cups by 2025.


The cup is a symbol of Starbucks' brand, but it can also be frustrating for customers. They love the company's white or holiday-themed paper ones, but they're not always happy with its plastic ones.

Michael Kobori, the company's chief sustainability officer, says that the cup is also a symbol of a society constantly discarding its waste.

"Our cup is ubiquitous, and we love that," said Kobori. "But it is also this ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society."

When people throw away their cups, they end up in the trash or in landfills. Some can be recycled, but the rest end up in landfills. According to Kobori, the best solution to this problem is to eliminate disposable cups.

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Bring your own cup to Starbucks
By 2025, the company wants to make it easier for everyone to use their own mug or borrow a reusable one from their local Starbucks.

Starbucks is also considering a borrow-a-cup program, where customers would pay a deposit to get a durable cup.

Amelia Landers, a vice president of Starbucks' product experience team, said that the company's plan should resonate with customers' sustainability concerns. For that, Starbucks has been testing several borrow-a-cup programs in different countries.

"I think that will take the lead," said Landers. "We are testing a number of different [borrow-a-cup] programs around the globe," including "20 different iterations and in eight different markets."

The company has developed a new cup that's made from lightweight and recyclable polypropylene. It could replace up to 100 single-use plastic cups. In a test, Starbucks gave the new cup to customers who paid a $1 deposit. They then had to return it to a smart bin.

Starbucks wants everyone to be able to use reusable cups and glasses at its stores. The company has also started experimenting with making the mugs more attractive. In addition, the company is also testing a program that would allow people to get a discounted price for using a Starbucks-provided ceramic mug.

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Personal mugs on drive-thru
The rise of the pandemic has caused more people to visit the drive-thru or order ahead. During a conference call in February, CFO Rachel Ruggeri noted that the rise of mobile orders and drive-thrus has contributed to 70% of the company's sales in the US.

To test different options, the company has created mock drive-thrus. Customers can still give their cups to the baristas there, but Starbucks is also looking for ways to make the process easier.

One of the company's suggested solutions is letting customers drop off their drinks at an earlier location to get them in a personal cup once they get to the window. Starbucks is also testing out the use of pre-made drinks in its stores.

If the company's goal is to eliminate plastic and paper cups, it will be an achievement. However, Landers said that even though most customers are passionate about the issue, they can't change their behavior easily.

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