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Five Seattle Starbucks stores test reusable ‘Borrow A Cup’ program

A customer walks by a Starbucks Coffee store on June 10, 2020 in Corte Madera, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A new program from Starbucks allows customers the option to receive their beverage in a reusable cup, which can then be returned to a participating store.

The “Borrow A Cup” program was first tested at single stores this past fall and winter, but it’s now at five stores in the Seattle area, four of which are located in or near West Seattle. The program started on March 30 and will run through May 31, 2021. The company says each reusable cup replaces up to 30 disposable cups.

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Borrow A Cup is at the following Seattle Starbucks locations: California and Fauntleroy; The Junction — California and Alaska; Westwood Village; 35th and Fauntleroy; and 4th and Diagonal.

To participate, customers can order a hot or cold beverage in a reusable cup at participating locations in-person, at the drive-thru, or via mobile order. There’s a $1 refundable deposit.

When customers are finished with their drink, they return the cup by scanning it at a contactless return kiosk and dropping the cup in the opening. They can then scan their Starbucks App to receive a $1 credit and 10 Bonus Stars in their Starbucks Rewards account.

Each cup that’s returned is “professionally cleaned and sanitized,” Starbucks notes. Starbucks partnered with Go Box, a reuse system operator and service provider that will collect the cups, clean and sanitize them with commercial dishwashing equipment, and then return them to circulation within 48 hours, according to Starbucks.

“Reducing waste through reuse is an important way to support a transition to a more circular economy. Since our launch in 2010, GO Box has been working to develop systematic processes and infrastructure to scale reusable packaging for food and drink to go,” said Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell, CEO of Go Box.

Customers also have the option to place their reusable cup from the Borrow A Cup program into their Ridwell bin for pick-up. Ridwell is a Seattle-based company that offers a home pick-up service for reusable and hard to recycle items.

While Starbucks usually offers the option for customers to enjoy a beverage in “For Here Ware” or to bring their own reusable cup, the practice was stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has not yet resumed in the U.S. and Canada.

Starbucks adds that despite reusable options being offered for a discount since the 1980s, the “vast majority” of beverages in the United States are still served in single-use cups, “with only a small amount being recycled or composted due to waste infrastructure limitations.”

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In related news, Starbucks Korea announced a commitment this week to eliminate single-use cups from all Korean stores by 2025. Starbucks also says they are working on ways to make their cups, lids, and straws easier to recycle and compost, and the coffee company has a goal to reduce waste by 50% by 2030. Learn more about Starbucks’ efforts toward a sustainable cup online here.

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