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Starbucks’ experimental new cup costs extra, but it’s worth it

The program is part of Starbucks’ aim to make its cups more sustainable, and it will kick off as a two-month trial in five Seattle stores. Customers at those stores will have an option to receive their drinks in a cup they can use again.
Here’s how it works: Customers will order their drinks in a reusable cup and pay a $1 refundable deposit. When the customer is done with their drink, they return the cup and receive a $1 credit as their refund plus 10 Bonus Stars for their Starbucks (SBUX) Rewards account.

If customers take the cup home, they can also take advantage of Starbucks’ partnership with Ridwell, a company that will pick up the reusable cups from your home. Each cup is then cleaned and sanitized and put back into the rotation for another customer to use.

This effort is just one of the coffee chain’s many attempts to go green with its cups, which helps push the company’s pledge to reduce its waste by 50% by 2030. For example, Starbucks recently redesigned its cold-cup lids so they won’t require a straw.

The chain’s traditional, disposable hot cups are made of both plastic and paper, so they’re difficult to recycle. And while compostable cups could be a greener option, they have to be composted in an industrial facility. So reusable cups could be a more practical eco-friendly choice, although this approach can be hard to scale.

Starbucks launched a reusable cup trial at Gatwick Airport in London in 2019, a year after the company launched the NextGen Cup Challenge in collaboration with McDonald’s and other partners to rethink cup materials. Contestants ranging from amateurs to industrial design firms submitted proposals for cups made from mushrooms, rice husks, water lily pads, corn leaves and artificial spider silk.

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