Starbucks to launch reusable cup sharing programme in the UK this year

Starbucks has announced plans to launch a reusable cup 'sharing' initiative in all British, French and German stores in the coming months, ahead of a roll-out across Europe, the Middle East and Africa by 2025.

Starbucks to launch reusable cup sharing programme in the UK this year

Customers will continue to get discounts for reuse

Under the scheme, called ‘Cup-Share’, customers will pay a small deposit fee for a reusable cup that is suitable for hot and cold drinks. They will receive 25-30p off of each beverage every time the cup is reused – the current incentive already on offer. Each cup has an identifying number, meaning that Starbucks staff can scan them and return the fee to the customer once they are finished.

Starbucks claims that the cup model it uses contains up to 70% less plastic than many others on the market in the EMEA region. The firm also claims that the cups do not need any sleeves, which further reduces resource use, and that they are designed to be reused at least 30 times before their end-of-life.

The launch of Cup-Share in the UK, France and Germany this year will be used to fine-tune the scheme with collected feedback ahead of the broader EMEA launch, which Starbucks is aiming to complete by 2025. In some geographies, including the UK, Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic, the offer of reusables will be in addition to a 5p or 5c surcharge per paper cup. In this way, the scheme can use both carrot and stick incentives.

The 5p surcharge was first introduced in the UK in 2018. Starbucks reported that it resulted in a 150% increase in reusable cup uptake, yet still, more than 93% of customers were using the disposable option.

Since then, the coffee giant has updated its sustainability strategy and a key new ambition is to halve waste by 2030. It has also continued working with Hubbub on cup circularity. In a 2019 survey from the partnership, it was found that most UK adults (69%) own a reusable cup, but less than one-fifth use them every time they go out for a beverage. The most common barrier was that people simply forget to bring their cups.

“We have set an ambitious goal to be a resource positive company and I believe we have a responsibility to give our customers new and unique options to integrate reusables in their day-to-day lives,” Starbucks’ president for the EMEA region, Duncan Moir, said.

“While we have made great strides in reducing the number of single-use paper cups that leave our stores, there is more to be done and we must make reusability the only option, long term.”

Refill back on the radar

Like many coffee chains, Starbucks implemented a temporary ban on reusable cups in UK stores in spring 2020 as a result of Covid-19. The ban was lifted in August 2020.

Not-for-profit City to Sea conducted research in 2020 revealing that many food-to-go brands were struggling to remove single-use plastics from front-of-house operations amid lockdown restrictions, with eight in ten brands having made no progress between January and November 2020.

The good news is that the phase-out now seems to be well underway once more. Brands including Costa and Boston Tea Party are working with City to Sea to incentivise reusable cup use while also staying Covid-19 safe. Elsewhere, McDonald’s and Burger King are working with TerraCycle’s Loop scheme to trial reusable packaging including cups.


In related news, smart water bottle brand REBO has partnered with Adidas and Parley ahead of World Ocean Day this weekend. 

REBO bottles have built-in sensors that detect when the owner is using the bottle. This data is then used to generate plastic ‘credits’, used to fund plastic collection and recycling schemes in developing nations. The brand also has an app mapping 230,000+ water fountains across the world, to encourage owners to use their bottles when they are on the go. 

As part of the Adidas and Parley partnership, exclusive, limited-edition designs for the bottles have been launched, and the organisations will run dedicated communications encouraging uptake. Additionally, the REBO app has been synched to Adidas’s ‘Runtastic’ app. 

Sarah George

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