Will Starbucks really be able to trash its paper cups?
If Starbucks makes good on its most recent environmentally-minded endeavor, by 2025 you may not see nearly as many of the chain’s paper cups in the hands of coffee drinkers.
Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at Starbucks, called eliminating the disposable cup the “Holy Grail” of an environmental solution, according to CNN.
The chain wants to allow all customers by 2025 to be using either their own coffee mugs or reusable cups available in-store, as an alternative to the now ubiquitous branded paper cup. While not promising to get rid of single-use paper cups entirely, the chain does plan to take steps to make the option less attractive. It is testing 20 versions of “borrow-a-cup” programs in eight different markets in an attempt to find the best model for promoting reusability.
One option is the use of a durable, environmentally-friendly cup people can take with them for a $1 deposit and return to get their dollar back. Another involves incentivizing customers to bring their own mugs (a practice stopped early during the pandemic due to fears of surface contamination).
Single-use containers became a point of focus for environmentally conscious consumers in recent years. The movement against single use plastics grew to the point where many municipalities throughout the U.S. banned plastic grocery bags, though many such regulations were relaxed at the beginning of the pandemic.
News of Starbucks’ new, eco-minded move comes as the company gets hit with heavy criticism from some, who have questioned how dedicated the chain truly is to the socially responsible ethos it has a reputation for touting.
The company has especially fallen afoul of labor advocates, who have criticized Starbucks’ moves to discourage and prevent unionization as a wave of labor activism has begun to sweep the U.S., as reported in Fast Company. The article, which characterizes the chain as a “progressive company [that has] lost its way,” recounts employee allegations of Starbucks engaging in union-busting moves, like captive audience meetings and punitive store closings, hour reductions and firings. The National Labor Relations Board recently sent the chain its first formal complaint over alleged illegal retaliation against two baristas.
- Starbucks is planning to phase out its iconic cups – CNN Business
- New Jersey hops back on the bag ban bandwagon – RetailWire
- What happened to Starbucks? How a progressive company lost its way – Fast Company
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: To what extent do you think Starbucks will be able to reduce reliance on the disposable paper cup? What do you see as the potential upside and downside of the move? Will good will over environmentalism impact the public perception of Starbucks as having “lost its way” on socially responsible issues?