Starbucks trials reusable cup program — with refundable deposit, loyalty points

Marianne Wilson
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Starbucks reusable cup kiosk

Starbucks Corp. is testing a program that lets customers earn loyalty points for purchasing a reusable cup and returning it to a special kiosk.

The coffee giant has launched a limited trial of “Borrow A Cup," a program which provides customers the option to order their beverage in a reusable cup and return it at the store’s contactless kiosk or at-home through a Seattle-area service called Ridwell. The pilot will run in five Starbucks stores in Seattle until May 31, 2021. According to Starbucks, a reusable cup replaces up to 30 disposable cups.

“Promoting reusability is an important part of Starbucks goal to reduce waste by 50% by 2030,” said  Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer, Starbucks. “We understand the interdependency of human and planetary health, and we believe it is our responsibility to reduce single use cup waste."

Here’s how it works: For a $1 refundable deposit, customers can order their hot or cold beverage in a newly designed reusable cup at a participating Starbucks café or drive-thru or by using the order ahead and pay feature in the Starbucks appWhen customers finish their beverage, they scan the cup at the store’s contactless return kiosk or drive-thru and drop the cup in the kiosk. 

Then, they scan their Starbucks app to receive a $1 credit to their Starbucks rewards account, in addition to receiving 10 bonus points. 

Starbucks has partnered with Ridwell, which offers a home pick-up service for reusable and hard to recycle items, to give customers a second option for returning their borrowed cup. Ridwell customers can place their reusable Starbucks cup in a custom, reusable cup bag and place it in their Ridwell bin for pickups from their front door.

The cups are professionally cleaned and sterilized after each use.

In a related move, Starbucks will eliminate all single-use cups from its stores in South Korea by 2025.