When Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters reopened last week, its returning employees discovered that the coffee chain’s wasteful paper and plastic cups had been replaced with reusable alternatives.

It’s a change the company is attempting to implement in the rest of its cafes throughout the world, which use around 7 billion throwaway cups each year.

Starbucks announced the latest steps it’s taking to minimize the usage of throwaway cups ahead of its annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday. More than 20 distinct versions of testing were conducted across eight markets to determine the best approaches to eliminate the single-use cup.

Customers in the United States and Canada will be able to use their own personal reusable cups for every Starbucks order by the end of next year. This includes drive-thru and mobile ordering, both of which are now unavailable.

Starbucks announced the latest steps it's taking to minimize the usage of throwaway cups

In an interview, Amelia Landers, Starbucks’ vice president of product innovation, stated “We’re doing so many tests to understand how that is most convenient for our customers and won’t slow the drive-thru line down for the person behind you and is also operationally friendly for our partners”

The corporation has a greater objective of halving waste and carbon emissions from direct operations by 2030, with the goal of eventually being “resource positive.” By 2025, Starbucks hopes that all customers will have easy access to reusable cups, either those provided by the firm or those brought from home.

Disposable cups and lids make up 40% of the company’s packaging waste, according to its chief sustainability officer, Michael Kobori.

“The cup is 20% of our waste footprint globally, but more than that, it is an icon,” he said. “This is Starbucks’ icon all around the world, and if we can replace this disposable cup, this symbol of waste, with this reusable, we completely change people’s mindset. And at Starbucks, we can really set an example and change the whole industry.”

However, convincing customers to stop using single-use cups has been difficult thus far. Starbucks had set a target in 2008 to have a quarter of customers use reusable cups by 2015, but it fell short.

“What we’ve learned from our consumer research is that even the most ardent champions of sustainability really do not claim that they carry a reusable cup around with them,” Landers said.

Since the 1980s, Starbucks has provided a 10-cent discount on every order for a personal cup or mug, but few consumers have taken advantage of the offer. This year, the business is conducting tests around the United States to explore how coffee drinkers react to various financial incentives and deterrents, such as a ten-cent cost for single-use cups and a fifty-cent discount for a reusable mug.

Starbucks also plans to test new cup-washing systems at cafés on the University of Arizona’s campus and in O’ahu, Hawaii. Before ordering a beverage, customers will be able to get their own cups cleaned.

In Japan, Singapore, and London, the corporation is experimenting with borrow-a-cup initiatives. The reusable cups were created to be returned to retailers, cleaned properly, and reused by other customers. Customers paid a deposit for each cup and earned their $1 back when they returned it when the firm piloted the concept in Seattle.


Starbucks has previously said that single-use cups would be phased out totally by 2025 in South Korea. All throwaway cups have already been phased out of four stores in Jeju and 12 sites in Seoul. According to Starbucks, initial testing in Jeju diverted an estimated 200,000 single-use cups from landfills in the first three months.

Starbucks’ social commitments, such as racial justice and climate change, have made the corporation attractive among investors who consider environmental, social, and corporate governance factors when selecting equities. However, the stock has dropped 26% in the last year as the firm grapples with rising expenses and macroeconomic worries, such as the Ukraine crisis, weigh on the broader market. Starbucks is worth $91.1 billion on the stock market.