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Starbucks is one of many operators joining in on this test.

Starbucks joins Dunkin’, Peet’s Coffee, Burger King, Yum Brands, and other restaurants in piloting reusable cups program with NextGen Consortium

Unlike Starbucks’ previous program, which had customers bring in their own personal cups, this returnable cup test in Petaluma, Calif. lets customers ‘borrow’ a cup

Starbucks is joining more than 30 restaurant brands — including Dunkin’, Peet’s Coffee, Burger King, and Yum Brands — in a returnable beverage cup pilot program in partnership with NextGen Consortium in Petaluma, Calif. The test, which starts Aug. 5 and ends Oct. 28, will allow customers to “borrow” a cup when they order a Starbucks beverage, and then return the cup when they are finished to one of 60 return bins across the city.

“Last year, Starbucks conducted a similar test in the same area, but we tested on our own,” Helen Kao, director of reusables at Starbucks, said in a statement. “This year, we expanded on that through our partnership with NextGen Consortium to drive systems change. What if we saturated a community, and reusables became the cultural norm? Now it’s an ecosystem of global brands, local businesses, city leaders and community groups working together. The industry is realizing that it’s easier to partner than do things alone.” 

Starbucks has been testing out reusable and returnable cups for years now: The company has long allowed customers to bring in their own cups for a 10-cent discount, and while that policy was briefly discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic, it returned in 2021. In 2020, Starbucks and McDonald’s partnered with NextGen Consortium to create 100% recyclable and compostable cups. The company also first began testing reusable cup rental services in partnership with Go Box in 2021. Then, in 2022, Starbucks stated that it wanted to move away disposable containers toward reusable cups by 2025, and was expanding the reusable cups program.

However, last year, Starbucks told NRN that there were hurdles in getting enough people to participate in the “bring your own” reusable cup program, although the company continued to try out different ways to encourage customers to bring in their own cups. Earlier this year, Starbucks announced that customers will be able to bring their own personal cups for every ordering occasion (including the drive-thru and mobile pickup orders), and that they would receive both a 10-cent discount and 25 star rewards as a thank you.

Eight Starbucks stores will be participating in this pilot test of returnable cups (including six company-owned cafes, and two licensed stores in Target and Safeway, owned by Albertson’s). The returnable cups will be purple and have “Sip, Return Repeat” insignia printed on them.

At the end of 2023, Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan said that the company will be focusing more on sustainability. Starbucks aspires to cut its “climate, water and waste footprint in half” and make all consumer packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2030. 

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

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