August 22, 2019

Starbucks pilots reusable cup program


Starbucks pilots reusable cup program at Gatwick Airport


Starbucks has begun testing a reusable cup system at Gatwick Airport in London. Customers can opt to receive their drinks in reusable cups and dispose of them at designated drop sites. This marks an initial trial, but Starbucks, with their sustainability partner Hubbub, have outlined the framework for a closed loop ecosystem within the retail coffee industry.


What sparked the trend

 In August of 2015, a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nostril surfaced on YouTube. The graphic and heart-wrenching content went viral and galvanized widespread consumer support for legislation to eradicate plastic straws. Governments have responded. Seattle, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Oakland, among others, have banned plastic straws for all vendors. The New York City Council has promised legislation by 2020 and other cities seem poised to enact similar bans.


Starbucks leading the way

Starbucks garnered attention for their famous, green, plastic straws and they responded by guaranteeing an end to its straw usage by 2020. To replace them, Starbucks has implemented straw-less lids, designed from recyclable polypropylene plastic, which successfully eliminate the need for a straw. But these still involve using plastic lids and cups – far from an ideal situation.


On July 26th, 2018, Starbucks began charging a 5 pence fee (6 cents) for all non-reusable cups across the United Kingdom. The fee goes to The Cup Fund, which the environmental non-profit, Hubbub, uses to launch various sustainability projects, including the reusable cup program at Gatwick Airport.


Starbucks’ closed loop system

The model for the Gatwick Airport reusable Starbucks cup system is simple and efficient. It primarily works because customers are likely to order and consume their drink within the airport. Starbucks offers reusable cups and there are 5 drop-off checkpoints located in the surrounding area, allowing customers to enjoy their drink while waiting for their flight and then drop off their cup with zero waste and limited hassle.


The critical element that allows for closed loop systems like this to exist is the ability to collect and recover all materials, which in the case of the Gatwick Starbucks’ – is fairly straightforward. In many industries, this step of the process creates a serious challenge, however, for example in the packaging industry where packages are designed with the specific purpose of being shipped all over the world.


EPE’s global positioning

One of the benefits of working with EPE is our unique footprint, which allows for the opportunity for a closed loop recovery ecosystem. Our global engineering team has designed and manufactured packaging solutions that allow for product’s packaged at origin to be transited all over the world to distribution centers and then to consumers’ homes. We have the capability and are positioned to be able to recover packaging once it’s unpacked by consumers, to inspect, clean, sort, and send the packaging back out to the distribution centers to be reused.


Our global positioning allows us to support our customers locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Starbucks has found a way to incorporate a closed loop in their industry, but we use proprietary designs that allow for the reuse of packaging materials. Others view these circular processes as new ways to package products, but we have been designing for the recycling and reuse of materials for years. And we’re getting really good at it. We have no plans of stopping either, as we continue to innovate and establish new standards for sustainability as part of our vision to save our world, one package at a time.