Starbucks returns to reusable cups

Starbucks is reintroducing reusable cups across its stores in the UK following “extensive trials”.

The new “completely contactless” method involves using a ceramic mug to transport the reusable cup through the bar—eliminating any shared touch points between customer and barista.

“Our new reusable cup procedure ensures the safety of our partners and customers, while supporting our commitment to the planet and our aspirations to become resource positive,” according to an update on its website.

Just prior to lockdown Starbucks stopped accepting reusable cups out of an “abundance of caution”. Other chains followed suit, prompting debate about whether single-use was the safest option.

But Costa last month became the first large chain to begin accepting reusable cups again. At the time Starbucks told Footprint that it was “currently trialling operational procedures that will allow us to reintroduce reusables as our stores evolve from takeaway and to-go models, and in line with local government and health official guidance”.

Starbucks and Costa are both members of the Reuse Action Group, convened by campaigners City to Sea. In the most recent meeting – which also included representatives from Compass, Zero Waste Scotland, Just Eat, Keep Britain Tidy, the Foodservice Packaging Association and others – Costa reported that uptake of reusables has been low, but this was due in part to the lack of commuters.

A summary of the meeting, shared with Footprint, also noted: “Costa are back to using crockery and eat in, with customers saying they feel safe in store. Condiments are given behind the counter to restrict contamination. There has been very little talk on reusable cups from customers, with most customers just wanting to know when their local Costa will open.”

Pret has said it remains “committed to reintroducing the use of reusable cups. We are hoping to bring them back before the end of the summer, dependent on changes to government social distancing guidance.”

Industry figures published last month show that just 6% of single-use cups are being recycled.

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