Cup and Materials

We are working to shrink our environmental footprint and meet the expectations of our customers by reducing the waste associated with our cups, increasing recycling and promoting reusable cups.

We’ve offered a cup with 10% post-consumer recycled paper fiber since 2006, after developing and leading the industry to approve using recycled fiber for food packaging. And we keep working to decrease the materials used in our packaging, finding new ways to encourage reusables and implement recycling solutions for our cups. In 2012 we introduced the EarthSleeve™ to Starbucks locations across the United States and Canada. This new hot-cup sleeve requires fewer raw materials to make, while increasing the amount of post-consumer content. These adjustments correlate to a savings of nearly 100,000 trees a year, and we are working to roll out EarthSleeve globally.

Our approach is to not only provide customers with cup choices for their beverages, but to also collaborate with others to create locally relevant improvements in the recycling infrastructures of communities where we operate.

Our customers’ ability to recycle our cups (or cups from any coffee shop), whether in their home curbside recycling, at work, in public spaces or in our stores, is dependent on multiple factors, including local government policies and access to recycling markets, such as paper mills and plastic processors. Because recycling infrastructure varies widely around the world, or may not exist at all – even from one city to another – a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for a global business with stores in 64 countries. Some communities readily recycle our paper and plastic cups. However, due to a historical lack of demand for used cup material by the recycling industry, many don’t have the infrastructure in place to handle collection, hauling and processing. Additionally, in our stores operating in leased spaces, our ability to provide recycling for our customers is often dependent upon landlords who control the waste collection and decide whether or not they want to provide recycling. With approximately 20,000 retail locations globally, conditions vary from city to city and from store to store – making it a challenge for us to efficiently and effectively implement uniform recycling strategies.

Cups & Materials Goal Chart

Starbucks Recycling Infrastructure

We have proven that our used cups can be accepted as a valuable raw material in a variety of recycling systems. We are working as a member of the Foodservice Packaging Institute’s Paper Recovery Alliance and the Plastics Recovery Group to bringing solutions to scale and address common challenges.

By working with non-governmental organizations, policy makers, competitors, our industry associations and others, we can tackle common challenges. We are helping advance a number of meaningful food packaging initiatives that will have a significant impact on the entire industry, such as analysis of the way our packaging “flows” through recycling facilities and where it eventually ends up, along with an assessment of the causes of current gaps in recycling services for our products in neighborhoods around the U.S. and Canada .

Reducing Waste with Reusable Cups

Reusable cups are an important component of our overall waste reduction strategy. Since 1985 we’ve rewarded our customers with a discount when they bring in personal tumblers, and we have a goal to serve 5% of the beverages made in our stores in tumblers and mugs brought in by our customers.

2013 Report Update

Tumblers Goal Chart
To learn more about our work in encouraging the use of reusable tumblers read our Global Responsibility Goals & Progress Report.

In 2013 customers brought their own tumblers into our stores 46.9 million times, up from 35.8 million in 2012, saving more than 1.4 million pounds of paper from landfills. As more customers brought in their personal tumblers over the previous year, the percentage of customers choosing reusable mugs saw a 22% increase over the prior year from 1.5% to 1.84%.

We are continuing to find innovative ways to engage customers to work with us to reduce waste. In January 2013 we launched a $1 reusable cup in the U.S. and Canada, and a £1 cup in the United Kingdom in April. We plan to expand the ideas that work to other markets and continue to explore new ways to reduce our cup waste. Ultimately though, it will be our customers who control whether or not we achieve continued growth in the number of beverages served in reusable cups.

And don’t forget, if you are enjoying one of our great beverages “for here” ask for a ceramic mug.

What We’re Doing Now

Introducing our new reusable and recyclable* cup!

  • We have always struggled to move the needle on our customers’ use of personal tumblers above 2% of transactions
  • We believe that offering a durable, low cost option that can be recycled when it wears out will be a hit at “changing habits” to make getting your to-go Starbucks beverage in reusables an everyday practice
  • And if the cup gets grungy or stained, or you don’t like the paint chipping off after you’ve used & abused it, recycle it and get another one for a buck

While we’ve sold reusable mugs and tumblers for years, what makes this new cup exciting is that it’s yours for only US$1. It’s a quality, low-cost option to enjoy your favorite Starbucks beverage. This cup is less expensive than other tumblers because it’s made with a lighter material and less of it. Though you’ll need to use a sleeve for the cup when you’re holding a hot drink, it’s a low-cost, way to help make a difference.

And since you receive a 10-cent discount every time you use it in our stores, this cup pays for itself in just 10 uses. And you’ve saved 10 paper cups!  If you use it daily for a month you’ll help avoid using more than a pound of paper or 3.5 pounds of wood. At the end of its life, *if polypropylene (#5) plastic recycling is available in your region, you can recycle this cup and help minimize your impact on the planet even more.

Starbucks is committed to reducing our cup waste. By offering this option and providing our 10-cent discount, we hope to inspire you to bring your own cup, we’ll provide the coffee.

What We’ll Do Next

We continue to enhance the visibility and use of ceramic mugs for our in-store customers as we renovate our existing store portfolio and build out new stores. You’ll notice the mugs are much more prominently displayed near the POS in our new store designs.

1 Data sourced from the 2012 Foodservice Disposable Packaging Assessment and the environmental impact estimates were made using the Environmental Paper Network Calculator (more at www.papercacluator.org.) All raw material and post-consumer claims on the material makeup of EarthSleeve™ have been validated by the paper suppliers and their compostability, re-pulpability and potential environmental benefits have been researched and validated by Cedar Grove, Western Michigan University, and Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator.

How You Can Help

How you can help - use a tumbler

Use a Personal Tumbler or Cup at Starbucks
You save 10¢ and another paper cup every time.
Shop for Reusable Tumblers

Share Your Ideas With Us

Starbucks Reusable Tumbler

Our reusable cup is an idea launched from suggestions made by our partners and customers.

You can share your ideas with us at mystarbucksidea.com.