Eye on Plastic Waste, Starbucks Rolls Out New Cups

New cold drink cups have 20% less plastic
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 22, 2024 1:30 PM CDT
Eye on Plastic Waste, Starbucks Redesigns Its Cups
This photo provided by Starbucks shows a new version of the company's cold cup, which is said to be made with up to 20% less plastic.   (Starbucks via AP)

Booming sales of cold drinks at Starbucks have created growing amounts of plastic waste from the single-use cups that Frappuccinos, Refreshers, cold brews, and other iced drinks are served in. The coffee giant said Thursday it plans to alleviate some of that waste with new disposable cups that contain up to 20% less plastic. The cups are set to be rolled out to stores in the US and Canada starting this month, reports the AP. Amelia Landers, Starbucks' vice president of product innovation, said the Seattle-based company spent the last four years developing the new containers. Engineers tested thousands of iterations to see how much plastic they could remove while still making the cup feel sturdy. "We feel like it's industry-leading," Landers said. "It's the best expression of a cold plastic cup."

Starbucks says cold drinks now account for 75% of its US beverage sales, up from 37% in 2013. The company estimates the new cups will keep more than 13.5 million pounds of plastic out of landfills each year. Producing the tumblers also requires less water and creates fewer carbon emissions, it said. And the 12-ounce cup—the "tall" in Starbucks lingo—is shorter and wider to accommodate the same-size lid as larger cups. Landers said the new cups are part of a sustainability push at Starbucks. The company adopted strawless lids in 2019. Last year, it said it would accept customer-provided cups for drive-thru and mobile orders in the US and Canada.

The company plans to roll out a reusable cup program at thousands of stores in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa by next year. Customers will pay a small deposit when they buy a hot or cold drink in a specially designed cup that can be used up to 30 times. They'll get the deposit back when they return the cup to a store. Starbucks also has tested reusable cup programs in California, Arizona, and Colorado. "Every market has their own challenges, their own requirements and customer behavior. Some are more prime for reusables," Landers said. "There is no one silver bullet to a sustainable cup." But in terms of sustainability innovations, she says, "We're not done."

(More Starbucks stories.)

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