Starbucks selling reusable coffee cup for $1

The new environmentally friendly product may not be an easy sell to customers.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 4, 2013 2:41PM

starbucks reusable cupStarbucks (SBUX) has always prided itself on doing the right thing, so it's hardly a shock that the coffee company is trumpeting plans to sell reusable coffee cups for $1. Winning over consumers, however, may not be easy.

Starbucks already cuts a dime off customers' bills every time they bring in a reusable cup for a refill. But it wants to do more. For the past few months the chain has been test marketing white, reusable cups at 600 stores in the Pacific Northwest. The effort helped boost use of cups in these stores by 26% over a year ago, company spokesman Joe Hanna told The USA Today.

Success, though, is not a given. For one thing, getting consumers to change habits that may be decades-old will be a challenge. 


Environmentalists gave the chain kudos for doing its part to reduce its presence in the nation's overflowing landfills. "It's big launch," said Brenda Pulley, a senior vice president at Keep America Beautiful, speaking of Starbucks, which isn't a backer of the non-profit, in an interview  "It's great to see their leadership. . . . There is a big push to reduce the waste that's generated. We are a drink, toss and go society."

Starbucks has had to scale back some of its lofty environmental goals. In 2008, the coffee company set a goal to have 25% of all its drinks served in reusable cups by 2015.  That goal was later scaled back to 5%, according to the newspaper. A Starbucks spokesperson said the change was needed because the program proved to be difficult track because 80% of its sales are to-go. This new coffee cup was designed as a result. 

Companies have found it difficult to develop more environmentally friendly paper coffee cups because the plastic lining in them makes them difficult to recycle, says Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Counsel. Also, recycling practices differ from community to community. "It's not a material that is commonly recycled in most communities," she said in an interview.

According to Keep America Beautiful, Americans generate about 250 million tons of garbage annually, nearly triple what it was in 1960. Earth estimated in 2009 that about 3 billion Starbucks are sent every year to landfills. Given the growth in Starbucks' sales since then, that figure has no doubt increased.


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