Starbucks to trial 5p charge on disposable cups

Starbucks already offers discounts for customers that bring reusable cups into stores, with the chain revealing that this promotion had led to a 1.7% increase in reusable cup purchases

Starbucks has announced a three-month trial, starting in February, which will test the impact of a 5p charge on in-store disposable coffee cups. The trial will take place across 20 to 25 London stores and marks the first time a major coffee retailer has charged customers extra for a cup.

The chain will partner with charity Hubbub to launch the London-based trial, and money generated from the charge will be used for studies into behaviour change and attitudes towards the uptake of reusable cups.

Hubbub’s Chief Executive, Trewin Restorick said, “We believe that more testing is required to assess the impact a charge may have on changing behaviour, to understand how better this could work we are delighted to announce a partnership with Starbucks that will trial and promote a 5p cup charge in 20 - 25 central London stores. The trial will investigate the impact of a 5p charge on a paper cup, coupled with the prominent marketing of reusable cups, on customer behaviour. Our joint findings will be shared with any interested parties before taking a view on next steps.”

Starbucks also has in-store paper cup recycling bins aimed at encouraging customers to return take-away cups back into the store and boost overall recycling levels.

The 5p charge pilot was announced after the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) called for a 25p ‘latte levy’ to be used as a lever to ensure all single-use coffee cups are recycled by 2023. The Committee called on the UK Government and the industry to address the 2.5 billion coffee cups that are thrown away annually, noting that voluntary retail efforts to date are “not working”.

While Starbucks and Costa offer 25p discounts for consumers who bring in reusable cups, Pret-A-Manger this week doubled its discount to 50p.

Starbucks is just one of the companies that formed a joint deal to accelerate the nationwide recycling of paper cups. More than 400 recycling points will be rolled out across the UK as the industry attempts to emulate the recycling success of drink cartons, which are now collected by 92% of UK local authorities through kerbside collections and recycling bank systems.

The company was also involved in Hubbub’s Square Mile Challenge, which recycled more than four million cups in London last year. Collected cups were recycled into bird feeders, plant pot holders and chalk boards.

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