Starbucks' new cold cups will use a lot less plastic

The coffee shop chain, which now gets most of its beverage sales from cold coffee, is introducing new, more sustainable cups that cut plastic by up to 20%.
Starbucks cups
Starbucks' cold cups will now have less plastic and fewer lids. | Photos courtesy of Starbucks.

Starbucks is making a big change to its cups that could keep a lot of plastic out of landfills.

The Seattle-based coffee shop chain said on Wednesday that it is introducing a new, more sustainable cup for its cold beverages that will use 10% to 20% less plastic.

The cups are expected to debut in the U.S. and Canada this month and, Starbucks said, will keep more than 13.5 million pounds of plastic out of landfills each year.

The company said that its cups will reduce emissions and conserve water in the production process. The cups also streamline workflow for employees by consolidating the cups’ lid combinations and simplifying storage.

Starbucks’ tall, grande and venti cups all use the same size lid.

For Starbucks, the new cup is designed to help it meet commitments to cut its carbon, water and waste footprints in half by 2030. And its cold cups are a huge producer of plastic waste.


The tall, grande and venti cups with their same-sized lids. 

While the chain was founded as a traditional coffee chain selling hot drip coffee and espresso-based beverages it has evolved into a concept that mostly sells customizable cold coffee beverages. More than 70% of the chain’s beverage sales are now cold.

Those cold beverages use plastic cups and lids. Starbucks said that it spent time in its lab at the Tryer Center, its innovation hub at the chain’s Seattle headquarters. Baristas made drinks in test and store settings. They rated the feel and performance of the cups and surveyed customers using QR codes.

“We invented new ways to test the cup that we didn’t have before,” Kyle Walker, a senior packaging engineer, said in a statement. “Like, what if we take this feature and move it up or down? Or what if we change the shape or the radius in this very small way? We were making all these micro adjustments and when we found the optimal combination, it was a real Eureka moment.”

Previously, the tall cup used a different lid from the grande and venti cups. So the company redesigned the tall cup to have a wider mouth and profile, yet still hold the same 12 ounces. The reduced number of lids take up less space.

The larger trenta size will still have a different lid.

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