Starbucks Innovates, Tests and Learns from Store Partners to Achieve Waste Goals

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At Starbucks, we’ve always been about so much more than coffee.

Over the course of our 50 years, with the help of our partners, we have always looked for ways to help protect our planet. Starbucks is committed to being a resource positive company, testing and learning from pilot programs and quickly sharing solutions to reach more people and create more impact.

We invest ahead of the growth curve and innovate by testing new technologies that help us learn how to create the best possible experiences for our partners and customers. This work is being done in our Tryer Center, at Hacienda Alsacia in Costa Rica, in the ASU-Starbucks Center for the Future of People and the Planet, and through collaborative partnerships like our support of the Dairy Net Zero Initiative, Closed Loop Partners and TONZ and the Farm Powered Strategic Alliance.

“We set a bold aspiration to become a resource positive company – to store more carbon than we emit, to eliminate waste and to conserve and replenish more freshwater than we use. This aspiration included setting ambitious 2030 targets to cut our carbon, water, and waste footprints in half,” said Michael Kobori, Starbucks chief sustainability officer. “Innovation is how we will build our next chapter, advance our planet positive impact, and boldly reimagine our future together.”

In support of the company’s goal to reduce waste sent to landfill from stores and direct operations, Starbucks is shifting away from single-use plastics, promoting reusability and championing the use of recycled content, driven by a broader shift towards a circular economy.

Inside the Tryer Lab at the Starbucks Headquarters - Beta Lab
Connor Surdi

Promoting Reusables

Our Planet Positive commitment comes to life when we invite our customers to join our efforts and find ways to be more sustainable during their Starbucks experience, like choosing a reusable cup. The challenge is how to make choosing reusables as convenient as you expect from Starbucks.

Our goal by 2025 is to create a cultural movement towards reusables by giving customers easy access to a personal or Starbucks provided reusable cup for every visit making it convenient to reuse wherever customers are enjoying their Starbucks Experience.

And by the end of next year, customers will be able to use their own personal reusable cup for every Starbucks visit in the US and Canada – including in café, drive-thru and mobile order and pay.

To help make reusables convenient for customers, we are testing multiple reusable programs and operating models:

  • Borrow A Cup: Customers order their drink in a designated Starbucks reusable cup, designed to be returned to stores, professionally cleaned, and reused by other Starbucks customers. This was previously tested in Seattle last year and we currently have live pilots in Japan, Singaporeand London. Each program is intentionally different (even the name!) to help us find the best possible operational model globally.
A customer's hand outside a car window holding a reusable cup in front of Borrow a Cup machine
  • 100% Reusable Operating Models: In this program, single-use cups are eliminated entirely, in favor of reusables, personal cups or for-here-ware. We tested this at four stores in Jeju, South Korea and recently expanded this an additional 12 stores in Seoul. The test in Jeju diverted an estimated 200,000 disposable cups from landfills in the first three months.

Three Starbucks partners standing inside a Starbucks store holding empty reusable glassware and mugs

  • Personal Cups & For-Here-Ware: Encouraging customers to bring their own cup and emphasizing Starbucks provided for-here-ware as the default sit-and-stay experience. We’re testing a 100% for-here-ware program at our experiential Greener Store in Shanghai.

Store manager Kim Davis led one of the first stores to test Borrow a Cup in the U.S.

“Customers were just so excited to try something new and my partners had a lot of pride in testing it and giving that feedback to make the program even better,” said Kim Davis, store manager. “I do think that everyone really does want to contribute to a better world, and if we can help them do that one cup at a time, that is our mission right there.”

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