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Post-COVID Milestone: BYO Cup To Starbuck’s Again!

Regardless of what the health officials say, at least one beverage purveyor has symbolically declared the COVID Crisis over. Starbucks is letting folks bring their own cups back for ‘refills’ again. It’s a milestone for the chain’s environmental program, too…

BYO Cup Program - © 2024 - Starbuck'sWhat’s that black plastic ‘measuring cup’ thing in the photo above? Starbuck’s barristas will
not only not rinse your reusable cup for you, they won’t actually touch the cup at all!
You’ll place your cup in the ‘handler’ before the barrista does their thing…

A little history…

Starbucks was allowing customers to bring their own cups back for ‘refills’ before the COVID Crisis descended upon the world. The idea was to help the chain reduce the amount of single-use containers that were being thrown away, defiling the environment.

Now, the program is back, and observers say that’s a strong indication that the grab-and-go sector is declaring the COVID Crisis well and truly over.

What’s going on…

As of January 3, 2024, Starbuck’s is resurrecting its pre-COVID BYO Cup program. “Customers at all company-operated and participating licensed Starbucks Stores across the U.S. and Canada can use their clean personal cup when ordering in-café, in the drive-thru or when ordering ahead with the Starbucks app,” the official news release relates.

“With the majority of Starbucks beverages enjoyed on-the-go, this milestone unlocks a big opportunity for customers to choose reusables and supports Starbucks commitment to reduce waste by 50 percent by 2030.”

Not everyone is happy

Even back when the program was first hatched – in 1885 – some folks were skeptical about the sanitary angle. At that time, Starbuck’s issued ‘Choose To Reuse’ cups of its own. This was largely to let the chain differentiate between hot and cold beverages, and control serving sizes.

But some barristas and some customers didin’t like the idea. At that time, barristas were expected to rinse out customers’ reusable cups before making a new order in them. Some staffers didn’t like the idea of coming into contact with cups that might be contaminated with customers’ germs. And some customers were skittish about possibly coming into contact with the barristas’ germs.

The resurrected BYO cup program some with a key change. First, you can bring any reusable cup you want, and Starbuck’s will fill it with whatever you like. But the cup must be clean. The barristas will not longer rinse it for you.

Nuts and bolts

If you bring your own reusable cup to Starbuck’s, you’ll earn a $0.10 discount on your order. In the US, you’ll also get 25 bonus stars on your Starbuck’s Rewards account.

What beverages can you order? The news release says: “All Starbucks standard size options (Short, Tall, Grande, Venti, Trenta) and beverage formats (hot, iced, and blended) are eligible to be ordered in a personal cup. ”

With the new program, Starbucks becomes, “the only national coffeehouse in the U.S. to offer customers the option to use their personal cup when they make a mobile order and the first in Canada to offer mobile order for all drinks and sizes.”

A laudable effort

Even if you take exception to the BYO Cup plan for sanitary reasons, you have to admit the program is brimming with good intentions.

But let’s not lose track of the benefits Starbuck’s is hoping to reap. The chain stands to save millions of dollars a year on single-use hot and cold beverage cups they won’t have buy, truck to outlets and dispose of in overflowing dumpster-loads.

Nevertheless, Starbuck’s crowns its news release thus: ““At Starbucks, we envision a future where every beverage can be served in a reusable cup,” said Michael Kobori, Starbuck’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

“Offering customers more options to use a personal cup when they visit Starbucks marks tangible progress towards the future. We know our customers are passionate about the planet, and now, they can join us in our efforts to give more than we take, no matter how they order.”

My take

Good on you, Starbuck’s. But I’ll be very interested to see how your fan base reacts to the reinstatement of your big environmental responsibility effort. Only if they are also convinced that the COVID Era is over, will your program produce the results you’re hoping for!

~ Maggie J.

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