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Starbucks commits to giving up disposable cups by 2030 in push toward sustainable packaging

2020-02-21 16:41 Friday

Starbucks has released a statement setting out its goal to become more eco-friendly by increasing its efforts to become more sustainable in areas such as packaging, carbon and waste, as detailed in a public letter signed by CEO Kevin Johnson.

In the letter circulated earlier this month, Johnson revealed that the US firm would be "resource positive" on carbon, waste and water, while eventually moving away from single-use packaging entirely by 2030.


By 2030, the Seattle chain said it will also slash carbon emissions; reduce landfill waste from shops and manufacturing facilities; and cut the amount of water it uses for coffee production and across operations by half.

Johnson noted: "As we approach the 50th anniversary of Starbucks in 2021, we're looking ahead with a heightened sense of urgency and conviction. We must challenge ourselves, think bigger and do more in partnership with others to take care of this planet we share." He said that, "by embracing a longer-term economic, equitable and planetary value for our company, we'll create greater value for all stakeholders."

The firm laid out strong plans to shift from single-use to reusable packaging, expand plant-based options in their stores, and migrate toward a more eco-friendly menu. It also intends to put funding into "regenerative and innovative agricultural practices, reforestation, forest conservation and water replenishment in Starbucks' supply chain".

Mark Lee, executive director of strategic consultancy firm SustainAbility, said:"It's encouraging to see Starbucks embrace a data-driven and team-driven approach to creating a resource-positive future."

"Its most senior leadership was directly involved in the creation of this plan, and they did an outstanding job convening experts in the field in the course of the development, inviting them to help the company dream big on what is possible for the planet."

In seeking to cut landfill waste in half, Starbucks is embracing the circular economy and joining hundreds of other companies as a signatory of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Commitment.

While the long-term goal to ditch single-use packaging for good may still be many years away, the company appears to be hedging its bet that millions of consumers will gradually be willing to change how they take their morning cappuccinos.

More consumers are becoming vocal about plastic waste, and there was public support for Starbucks ditching its trademark green plastic straw in favor of a tilted cold-drink lid, a policy which is being rolled out worldwide this year.

Starbucks has made other modest shifts to cup designs since issuing its cardboard sleeves in 1997 to prevent using two cups for hot drinks. Today, it says packaging accounts for 85% of all waste that leaves its stores.

It still not clear what form "reusable" packaging will take across Starbucks' beverages and snacks. Currently, Starbucks considers recyclable and compostable cups to still be single-use items. Some commentators say that cup reuse will be the favored option. Since 1998, Starbucks has offered a small discount to customers who bring in their own cup for a refill in the States, and similar schemes have been put in place in the UK and Korea.

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