New Starbucks-led behaviour change scheme aims to double reusable coffee cup uptake

Around 5% of hot drink sales in major chains were in reusable cups in 2019

Funded through Starbucks’ 5p levy on paper cups, which now applies at all UK stores, the ‘Grab Your Cup’ campaign will feature advertisements, social media posts and a new jingle encouraging members of the public to bring their reusable cup every time they buy a hot takeaway drink.

The jingle will be played on radio stations, Spotify and YouTube from today (8 January), initially targeting consumers in Greater Manchester. As time goes on, Hubbub and Starbucks will roll the jingle out and trial further initiatives aimed at changing consumer behaviour.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to raise reusable cup use to 10% of all hot drink sales across big-name chains like Starbucks and independent cafes alike. Starbucks sold 5% of its hot drinks in reusable cups in the UK last year, up from 2.2% in 2017, with Hubbub claiming that other major chains are likely experiencing similar trends.

If this ambition is achieved, around 150 million single-use coffee cups will be removed from circulation annually. Given that Hubbub and Starbucks’ most recent research found that more than two-thirds (69%) of UK adults already own a reusable cup, the organisations are confident that nudge techniques can ensure they are used at scale.

“We’re proud to continue our work with Hubbub, trialling out-of-store waste management solutions and raising awareness of the benefits of reuse,” Starbucks EMEA’s vice president of public affairs Haley Drage said.

“The Grab Your Cup campaign in Manchester is a unique way to encourage people to always carry their reusables whilst on-the-go and addresses on of the key barriers to more customer adoption. We are excited to try something new and see the kind of impact that it can have.”

Other joint projects between Hubbub and Starbucks include the Cup Fund, a scheme helping startups aiming to create a circular economy for coffee cups to scale; the charity’s Plastic Fishing offering; and Leeds by Example, a city-wide, cross-sector collaboration aimed at boosting recycling rates across the food-to-go sector.

A storm in a coffee cup

A 2017 study by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) found that just one in every 400 coffee cups distributed within the UK was collected for recycling, with more than 500,000 cups littered every day.

Since then, the figure is believed to have improved to one in every 25 cups being recycled, largely due to actions taken by individual actors and collaborative projects across the business, investment, waste management and public sectors.

In the reuse field, UK coffee shops are increasingly turning to incentives to spur behaviour change –despite an absence of national policy mandating them to do so. Many shops offer a discount for customers reusing cups, with Pret-A-Manger offering the highest discount of 50p per cup. Less common incentives include giving customers an extra loyalty card stamp for using reusable cups (Caffe Nero) and banning single-use disposable cups altogether (John Lewis & Partners, Boston Tea Party).

Sarah George

Comments (2)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    So why do Starbucks automatically put your coffee in a disposable cup even when you tell them you are sitting in?

    The first cup should be a ceramic one, the customer should not have to chose a proper cup they should have to ask for a disposable one and the fee to have one should be 1 not 5p.

    Perhaps we all need to stop and really enjoy our coffee instead of drinking on the run or in the car (itself an offence if you are the driver). Stop and savour the flavour of a hand crafted coffee from a proper mug and enjoy the moment.

  2. Dennis Collins says:


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    We are in the process of building a plant in Australia that can recycle 3.6 million coffee cups a year .
    The process can remove the plastic in one piece.This leaves the paper plastic free.
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