Starbucks introduced a three-month 5p levy trial on paper coffee cups across 35 stores in London back in February. In the following six weeks, results from the coffee chain retailer show that reusable cup usage has increased by 156.6% in those stores, with almost 6% of consumers taking advantage of a 25p discount for using reusable cups, compared to 2.2% before the charge was introduced.

To build on the trials, Starbucks announced on Thursday (26 April) that 54 stores across London and Manchester will trial solutions for plastic straws, including paper and biodegradable alternatives. The paper straw trials commence in May.

“We are encouraged by the initial results of our trial that show that by charging 5p and increasing communication on this issue, we can help to reduce paper cup use,” Starbucks EMEA’s chief operating officer Jason Dunlop said.

“Now those same customers can also help us to test innovative plastic straw alternatives, to further reduce our impact on the environment. We look forward to sharing the full report on this cup charge trial, in collaboration with Hubbub, with the wider industry as we work together to find sustainable solutions.”

Proceeds of the 5p charge are donated to environmental charity Hubbub, which has collected more than 1.2 million paper coffee cups across Manchester and London. Hubbub’s collection campaign was built on the startling fact that less than 1% of the 5,000 coffee cups discarded each minute in the UK are recycled.

Once the three-month trial is completed, Starbucks will share a report in collaboration with the charity that evaluates the impact that the discount and the charge had on consumer behaviours in relation with reducing the volume of paper cups in use.

Storm in a coffee cup

Starbucks launched its £1 reusable cups in 2014 but has offered the discount in the UK since 1998. The company’s own commissioned research found that 48% of consumers said they would carry a reusable cup to save money and reduce waste. Starbucks UK stores are also signed up to the Refill scheme to offer free water refills to help promote reuse of water bottles.

Last month, Starbucks declared a “moon shot for sustainability” by unveiling a £7m funding challenge to develop recyclable and compostable coffee cups, across its global operations.

Across the retail sector, Argos sold 537% more reusable cups in December 2017 compared to the same month the previous year, while John Lewis reported a similar increase in sales.

Matt Mace

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