Starbucks coffee cup

Starbucks tests eco-friendly disposable cups

Coffee giant Starbucks has begun trialling a new compostable takeaway cup in cafes in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver and London. 

The trial, which started in March and is for a limited period within selected cafes, is the first outcome of the company’s NextGen Cup Challenge – a competition set up in partnership with McDonald’s and the Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. 

The company aims to address single-use packaging waste by developing an industry-wide solution for the estimated 600bn paper and plastic cups used each year that end up in landfill.

Twelve winning teams were chosen from the six-month design competition, in February 2019, who had offered solutions that included cup liners, new materials and reusable cups – all of which were then tested by Starbucks for quality and performance and evaluated for manufacturing logistics, scalability and pricing.

The solution being tested in the trial features an innovative liner called BioPBS, which makes the cup certified compostable and recyclable. The company said customers should not see any noticeable difference from the current cup. 

The firm is also continuing to work with the recycling industry to encourage the recyclability of cups and to evaluate other Next Gen Challenge Cup concepts.

The quest to find a more sustainable cup solution is part of Starbucks’ aspiration to be what it calls “resource positive” – storing more carbon than it emits, eliminating waste and providing more clean, fresh water than it uses. The company has set this as a key corporate goal in the run-up to its 50th birthday in 2021.

In a recently-released public letter, Starbucks chief executive officer Kevin Johnson announced a multi-decade commitment for the company to aspire to “give more than it takes from the planet”. These measures included science-based preliminary targets for the reduction of carbon emissions, water use and waste, by 2030.

“This aspiration is grounded in Starbucks’ mission,” said Johnson. “By embracing a longer-term economic, equitable and planetary value for our company, we will create greater value for all stakeholders.”

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