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Starbucks to cut waste with more reusable cups

The rapid surge in coffee drinking in many countries fueled an increase in disposable waste

In April, the coffee giant announced plans to eliminate disposable cups from its cafes across South Korea by 2025, its first such measure in a major market.(Samule Sun, Unsplash)

Starbucks Corp will offer reusable cups in stores across Europe, the Middle East and Africa by 2025 in an effort to reduce the amount of single-use waste heading to landfill.

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The Seattle-based coffee chain will begin a trial in the U.K., France and Germany over the coming months before expanding the program to all 3,840 stores across 43 countries in the region, according to a statement Thursday. The initiative is part of Starbucks’s plan to become a “resource positive” company and cut carbon emissions, water usage and waste in half by 2030.

“While we have made great strides in reducing the number of single-use paper cups that leave our stores, there is more to be done and we must make reusability the only option, long term,” said Duncan Moir, Starbucks EMEA president.

The rapid surge in coffee drinking in many countries during the past two decades fueled an increase in disposable waste. An audit conducted with sustainability consultant Quantis and the World Wildlife Fund found that in 2018 Starbucks dumped 868 metric kilotons of coffee cups and other garbage. That’s more than twice the weight of the Empire State Building.

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In April, the coffee giant announced plans to eliminate disposable cups from its cafes across South Korea by 2025, its first such measure in a major market.

In the EMEA trial, customers will pay a small deposit for a reusable tumbler that comes in three sizes and can be used up to 30 times for hot or cold drinks before being returned, according to the company. Starbucks is introducing one that uses 70% less plastic than previous models and doesn’t require a protective sleeve.

The initiative will run alongside existing programs, such as offering ceramic cups for temporary use in stores and discounts for customers who bring their own tumblers. Starbucks will also reintroduce a paper cup surcharge in the U.K. and Germany.

Like rivals, Starbucks paused many reusable cup programs during the pandemic over fears of Covid-19 transmission. In August 2020, it reinstated the use of personal cups by U.K. customers using a contactless process to minimize risk.

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