Back in 2020, Starbucks introduced strawless lids to their stores in the U.S. in hopes of reducing plastic straw waste. According to Starbucks, these lids have “approximately nine percent less plastic than the flat lid and straw historically used for iced beverages,” but “straws [would] remain available upon request.”  

While this decision likely was a response to the then-popular outcry to “save the turtles,” it was said to be a part of a bigger plan for Starbucks to become “resource positive” by 2030 — giving more to the planet than taking. Starbucks has pointed to different ways of reducing plastic waste in locations throughout the world: namely, producing cups with recycled content, returnable cup programs, and creating “a more robust recycling industry.” 

One Starbucks location has no single-use plastic cups.

One example can be seen at an Arizona State University’s Starbucks, where there are no disposable single-use plastic cups. At all. A ‘borrow and return’ program has customers dump their reusable cups in a bin after they are done. Or, if you prefer using your own personal cup, you can use one of the cup-washing stations. Customers who bring their personal cups get one dollar off their drink. 

Cups too damaged to be reused are cut and melted to become return bins for the reusable cups, allowing the entire program to be very cyclical. These types of reusable cup programs are also happening in places like Napa, CA, where customers can similarly borrow reusable cups for free.

Other coffee companies have also made the push towards reducing plastic via reusable cups, but Starbucks, with its massive popularity and influence, could really force change with its changes. If the world’s largest coffee chain sets the trend, other companies will likely follow suit. 

How will this affect Starbucks’ brand?

Starbucks owes much of its branding to its iconic cup and logo, especially seasonally with their red holiday cups. With a pledge to cut their waste within seven years, it will be interesting to see how it markets sans disposable cups. 

To learn more about what Starbucks has outlined for a sustainable future, find the sustainability timeline here.