Starbucks begins points-earning ‘Borrow a Cup’ trial for Earth Month

For a $1 refundable deposit, Starbucks customers worried about how much trash they leave behind can order a hot or cold beverage in a newly designed reusable cup during a campaign at select locations.


 announced the “Borrow A Cup” trial in five Seattle stores. The program, kicked off for Earth Month, an expansion of the annual April 22 Earth Day, runs through May 31. Customers can participate in the store or drive-through and when using the order ahead and pay feature in the Starbucks app.

When customers return the cups at a participating store’s contactless kiosk or at home through a Seattle-area service called Ridwell, they’ll get the $1 back and 10 rewards points for the chain’s loyalty program. The cups are then professionally cleaned and sterilized.

The coffee and bakery chain will determine from the trial if the program is scalable throughout its store network.

A borrowed cup replaces up to 30 disposable cups, according to the company, which considers the campaign as part of its goal to reduce waste by 50% by 2030.

Read: Can Starbucks save the planet by cutting dairy? Activists and investors respond

“We understand the interdependency of human and planetary health, and we believe it is our responsibility to reduce single use cup waste,” said Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at the chain. ” We will lead the transition to a circular economy.”

Starbucks said global refuse from its stores accounted for about 9% of its 16 million-ton carbon footprint in 2018. 

Starbucks had long allowed consumers to bring in their own cups or drink using the restaurant’s reusable “For Here Ware” and receive a discount. The practice had been suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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Americans use 120 billion disposable coffee cups each year, according to data from the Clean Water Fund. The plastic coating on cups typically used for hot beverages and to reinforce paper cups often prevents them from being recyclable.

Starbucks joined McDonald’sMCD in 2018 to commit $10 million in partnership with Closed Loop Partners to establish the NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge in work toward a more sustainable cup.

In a related move, Starbucks will eliminate all disposable cups from its cafes in South Korea by 2025. It’s the first measure of this magnitude in a major market and will be scrutinized for broader adoption.

This “cup circularity” program in South Korea will start in July. The nation had already pushed Starbucks to ban plastic cups for customers dining in at its cafes.

At the national level, both South Korea and the U.S., joining several other major economies, have pledged net zero emissions by 2050.

Read:Microsoft, Starbucks and Nike opt for show-and-tell to push others to hit net zero carbon emissions

Starbucks stock is up more than 64% over the past year, up about 5% so far in 2021. The S&P 500

is up 8.6% in the year to date and up more than 53% over the past 12 months. 

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