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Reusable cups are coming to a bunch of restaurant chains in one California city

Starbucks, Burger King, KFC, Dunkin’ and other brands will work together on a citywide reusable cup initiative in Petaluma, California, starting August 5.
Reusable cups
Starbucks, Dunkin', Peet's and several other brands are collaborating on reusable cups in Petaluma California. | Photo courtesy of Starbucks.

A group of restaurant chains—many of which are direct competitors—are about to figure out if they can get an entire town to use reusable cups.

Starbucks, KFC, Dunkin’, Peet’s Coffee, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are among a group of companies that are collaborating on The Petaluma Reusable Cup Project, a first-of-its-kind test of a citywide reusable cup initiative in Petaluma, California.

Starting August 5, more than 30 restaurants in the city will ditch their single-use cups and will provide customers with reusable cups at no cost. Return points for those cups will be spread across the city.

The effort also includes Target and Safeway stores along with local cafes and restaurants.

The project is building on work by the NextGen Consortium, a multi-brand collaboration managed by the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, an effort working to find strategies to move away from single-use packaging at restaurants.

The Petaluma project is a milestone, the first effort of its kind in a U.S. city designed to drive more consumers to reuse cups.

“To create a world without packaging waste, we need to ensure that food packaging reuse systems are scaled in a way that creates positive impact,” Kate Daly, head of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. She added that the effort could help determine how to scale reuse in an entire community.

U.S. consumers use some 50 billion single-use cups each year, most of which come from restaurants. The average life span of these cups is less than one hour, according to the Center for the Circular Economy.

Starbucks last year became the first U.S. coffee retailer to accept personal cups nationwide.

Petaluma, in the northern San Francisco Bay Area, was selected because consumers and businesses in the region are more receptive to adopting reuse. There is also a policy environment promoting the phase-out of non-recyclable, single-use packaging.

The city also participated in a 2023 pilot project involving reusable cups at Starbucks locations. Petaluma’s dense layout, with a tight cluster of restaurants, is also believed to create the right conditions for such a test to succeed.

The effort also received support from the City of Petaluma, the nonprofit group Zero Waste Sonoma and the waste-management company Recology.

More than 60 reusable cup bins will be installed across the city. After cups are used and returned, they will be collected, washed and recirculated for future use. Muuse, the maker of a smart reusable cup system, will manage the logistics for the initiative.

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