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Starbucks will start letting you borrow reusable cups

The chain is testing a “Borrow-A-Cup” program at five stores in Seattle as part of an effort to reduce overall waste.
Starbucks Borrow A Cup program
Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Don’t have a reusable cup for your coffee? Starbucks will soon let you borrow one.

The Seattle-based coffee giant for the next two months will start testing a “Borrow-A-Cup” program at five locations in Seattle.

The idea is to cut back on waste by encouraging the use of reusable cups. For a $1 deposit, customers can order a hot or cold beverage in the reusable cup in person, the drive-thru or the Starbucks app. When finished, they scan their cup at the store’s return kiosk in the lobby or drive-thru and drop it off at the designated opening.

They then receive a $1 credit to their Starbucks Rewards loyalty account along with 10 “Bonus Stars.”

“The Starbucks cup is iconic,” the company said in a press release. “And while technically, Starbucks cups can be recycled under the right circumstances, they can only be used once. We know that needs to change.”

Starbucks wants to reduce waste by 50% by 2030 and more reusable cups would help toward that goal—a reusable cup theoretically replaces up to 30 disposable cups, the company said.

Big chains that have adopted environmental goals are themselves looking at  “circular” cups or other reusable packaging programs—McDonald’s last year said it would start testing reusable cups in the U.K., while Burger King is testing reusable packaging this year. The Just Salad chain has a reusable bowl program.

Starbucks’ entrance into this market has seemed inevitable given the chain’s own goals. The company will run its test of the Borrow-A-cup program in five stores through the end of May. The company is working with a Seattle-area service called Ridwell to give customers an at-home option to return their disposable cups.

Ridwell provides customers with a bin for pickups at their front door—customers place their cup inside a reusable cup bag and place it into the bin for pickup.

Starbucks is also working with GO Box to collect borrowed cups from stores daily, professionally clean and sanitize them and then put them back in circulation within 24 hours.

Starbucks said it plans to eliminate single-use cups from all of its Korean stores by 2025. It is also part of the NextGen Consortium, which is working with other restaurant chains like McDonald’s to find more sustainable cup alternatives.

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