Starbucks, Dunkin' further sustainable cup initiatives


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Dive Brief:

  • Starbucks is tasking its London Gatwick airport locations with a reusable cup pilot, reports BNN Bloomberg. Customers will have the option of paying a six cent surcharge for a regular disposable cup or to opt for a free reusable cup. The trial, which is a partnership with Hubbub, will use 2,000 reusable cups.
  • The company will monitor the number of returned cups and test different collection points to maximize the number of returns. Even if only 250 customers opt for a reusable cup, it could save more than 7,000 disposable cups during the monthlong trial, according to Starbucks.
  • Dunkin’ also will eliminate polystyrene foam cups from its 9,000 stores by the end of the year, according to a company announcement. The retailer will supply double-walled paper cups that are made with certified sustainable materials instead.

Dive Insight:

Customers are willing to pay more money for sustainable packaging and Starbucks is one of the biggest players in the restaurant space capitalizing on the trend. It recently secured a $1 billion sustainability bond, plans to power 3,000 store locations with clean energy by 2021, and launched a $1.3 million “Cup Fund” to expand and improve paper cup recycling programs throughout the U.K. It’s also running a pilot for a recyclable and compostable cup in major U.S. cities on top of offering strawless plastic lids to stores in the U.S. and Canada throughout this year.

Dunkin’ has also been hot on the sustainable packaging trail, making its announcement to eliminate foam cups worldwide in February on top of choosing to completely eliminate Styrofoam material from its worldwide supply chain by 2020. It’s using the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard to certify its fiber-based packaging choices while also creating more energy efficient stores.

Other restaurants are picking up on consumers desire to swap out single-use products. A number of cafes in Boulder, Colorado, have started a mug-share program that allows customers to exchange stainless steel mugs at other participating cafes or at drop-off kiosks.

Yum Brands’ KFC is sourcing more sustainable packaging and joined fellow banners Taco Bell and Pizza Hut in the NextGen Consortium, which is geared towards finding more sustainable packaging solutions in food service. McDonald’s, one of the consortium leaders, is hoping to eliminate Styrofoam packaging globally by the end of 2019.

Part of the pressure towards finding reusable and sustainable alternatives comes from a wave of legal efforts to ban plastic bags, plastic straws and Styrofoam food containers. Washington D.C., and Seattle have banned plastic straws, while Hawaii is looking at outlawing Styrofoam. The European Union is making the biggest commitment in this arena, with a forthcoming single-use plastics ban effective 2021 that covers plastic straws, cutlery, plates, stirrers and more.

Restaurants also may be soon held more accountable for its sustainability efforts. Yelp is testing a sustainability rating on its restaurant review platform that asks diners to score retailers based on their environmental footprint. Some of the metrics it assesses are whether the retailer uses plastic straws and whether it offers reusable cup discounts or compostable containers.