Starbucks is reportedly hoping to phase out its disposable cups by 2025 and create scenarios that make reusable options more intriguing to customers.
“Our cup is ubiquitous, and we love that,” said Michael Kobori, Starbucks chief sustainability officer, per CNN. “But it is also this ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society.”
The best fix is “[e]liminating the disposable cup,” Kobori said, calling that option “the holy grail.”
The company wants customers to be able to choose between using their own personal mug in a convenient way or borrowing a reusable cup from their cafe.
“The goals don’t mean Starbucks will get rid of the paper and plastic cups. But they do want to make that option less attractive. That won’t be easy to do, as most Starbucks customers are used to that simple, single-use option. But the company has a plan,” CNN added.
Starbucks is thinking about initiating a broad borrow-a-cup initiative. Customers would pay a deposit for a cup that they can take when they leave the store, and then give back after they use it.
Amelia Landers, a vice president of product experience, said this option will be more attractive to customers than other strategies.
“I think that will take the lead,” she said. “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 tried out a version of the initiative last year in Seattle.
“We developed a new cup that had a very low environmental footprint, was lightweight polypropylene, ultimately recyclable and could replace 100 single-use disposable cups,” Landers explained.
In the test, consumers paid a deposit of $1 and had to give the cup back to a smart bin in the cafe to get their deposit returned to them. They also received rewards for using the reusable cup.
The company is also rolling out similar first-step programs in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Singapore.
Another strategy the company is looking to implement is pushing people to bring their own reusable cups.
“We’re testing an incentive on the personal cup to go up from where it is today — from 10 cents to 50 cents,” Landers said. “We are also going to be testing a disposable cup fee.”
“She added that the chain is also experimenting with discounted prices for people who use a Starbucks-provided ceramic mug in stores,” per CNN.
The drive-thru scenario, however, might pose complications with this specific option. The company has been trying out different scenarios at its innovation facility.
“We’ve got mock stores set up,” said Landers. “We have different versions of the drive-thru layout.”
As CNN reported, a possible solution to the drive-thru dilemma might be for “customers to drop off their cups at an earlier point in the drive-thru lane so that the drink is ready in a personal cup once they swing around to the window,” Landers reportedly said. Baristas might also be able to make the drinks ahead of time when the orders are made, and transfer them to personal containers once the person picks up their drink.
In order to successfully transition to incentivizing customers to use their own drink containers, the company will likely need to make the drive-thru and order ahead option incredibly convenient.
Starbucks CFO Rachel Ruggeri reportedly said that drive-thru and mobile orders combined make up about 70% of sales at American stores that the company operates.