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August 12, 2019updated 13 Aug 2019 3:22pm

Starbucks and sustainability: Current and future packaging efforts

US-headquartered coffeehouse chain Starbucks has upped its packaging sustainability efforts over recent years – from implementing cup charges to selling own-brand reusable tumblers. Packaging Gateway takes a look at the current and future sustainable packaging efforts from Starbucks.

By Deborah Williams

Starbucks’ sustainable packaging efforts

Earlier this year, Starbucks and UK environmental charity Hubbub launched the first-ever reusable cup trial at Gatwick Airport in a campaign they call #cupcupandaway.

Running for one month, the trial allowed customers to borrow a reusable cup at any Starbucks outlet in Gatwick’s South Terminal and drop it off at one of five ‘Cup Check-in’ points located throughout the airport. The cups were then collected by Gatwick’s waste management, to be washed, sterilised and returned to Starbucks.

Starbucks also partnered with Hubbub to launch a new UK grant, The Cup Fund, to help create paper cup recycling programmes across the UK. The grant was funded by the Starbucks 5p cup charge and helped back at least ten large-scale programmes. Since the introduction of its 5p paper cup levy trial, Starbucks announced last year it had experienced a 156.6% increase in consumption of reusable cups in selected London stores.

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Starbucks UK said: “At Starbucks, we are committed to minimising our impact on the environment, and reducing our environmental footprint by focusing on three main areas: reducing the waste associated with our business, promoting reuse and increasing recycling rates.

“We introduced the 25p discount and the £1 cup to encourage our customers to bring a reusable cup to our stores. Our Gatwick trial was the most recent initiative to look at reusable behaviour within a closed environment, the result and lessons of which we are currently reviewing to inform future sustainability activities.

“Our Cup Fund programme – the winners of which will be announced later this year – will scale up cup recycling in the UK through the £1m investment to better resource the collection of paper cup waste.”

Tata Starbucks also announced it will completely transition to compostable and recyclable packaging solutions across its India stores by 5 June this year.

Last year, the coffeehouse chain announced plans to remove single-use plastic straws from all of its stores globally by 2020. Since then, Starbucks has introduced strawless lids across the US and Canada. The lids are made from polypropylene plastic, which is widely recyclable. Starbucks UK added: “Looking forward, we will be introducing a new recyclable strawless lid that could replace more than a billion plastic straws each year.”

As part of its Reduce Initiative, Starbucks has reduced the amount of material used in its hot and cold cups, reportedly saving the equivalent of 700,000 cups per month. In 2014, it also introduced its 100% recycled and recyclable, lightweight Earthsleeve paper. Starbucks said that Earthsleeve has saved the equivalent of three million sleeves per month and allows it to use single wall cups – ultimately reducing paper, energy, and water during production.

However, last year, a collective of environmental groups urged Starbucks to fulfil its pledge to switch to 100% fully recyclable cups in its stores.

Following this, Starbucks revealed earlier this year that it is testing out a compostable cup in five locations — London, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver. “We are also investing in the development of an alternative paper cup through our NextGen Cup Challenge, and will be trialling one of the winning cup options in London early next year,” concluded Starbucks UK.

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