Merchant Innovation

Starbucks Charging For Cups In The UK

Starbucks cups, despite being made of paper, are not actually easily recycled — the thin layer of plastic sprayed on to keep the drinks warm renders them that way.  And most people don’t even bother to try — they just throw them out.

Starbucks is aware of the issue — stateside they have sought to solve it by rewarding customers who bring their own cups with a 25 cent discount.

In the U.K. they are trying a new method — charging extra for using a paper cup. Only five pence — and so far, only in a handful of London-based stores.

Residents of the U.K. toss about 2.5 billion Starbucks cups per year — in the U.S., the number is 4 billion.

Will an additional charge of a dollar or two per month push people to bring their own cup?

Perhaps. In U.S. cities where plastic bags cost an additional 10 cents, plastic bag usage went down. However, one already has to go to the grocery store — and bringing one’s own bag will not markedly require a set of new behaviors. Nearly a third of Starbucks customers in the U.S. use the mobile app to order ahead — an activity that precludes bringing one’s own cup.

Customers, particularly the mobile-oriented, might decide that it is worth an additional five or ten cents to skip the line, order ahead and use a paper cup.

But for the daily Starbucks drinker who goes to the store to sit, it might change a behavior. It won’t take 2.5 billion U.K. cups out of the trash — or 4 billion U.S. cups, should the program jump the pond — but it might make a dent, and every little bit counts.


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