Starbucks has announced the launch of the "Borrow A Cup" trial in five Seattle stores in an "Earth Month" offering to start on Earth Day on April 22.
Customers can participate in-store, at the drive-through, and by using the Starbucks app's order ahead and pay feature.
Starbucks customers concerned about how much garbage they produce can order a hot or cold beverage in a newly crafted reusable cup for a $1 refundable deposit during a campaign at select locations.
Customers who return the cups at a participating store's contactless kiosk or at home via a Seattle-area service called Ridwell will receive a $1 refund as well as 10 rewards points for the chain's loyalty program. The cups are then thoroughly washed and sterilized by a professional.
Starbucks has been working for a more sustainable cup for years, and in 2018, the company, along with McDonald's, pledged $10 million to the NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge in collaboration with Closed Loop Partners.
In addition, the company has been researching and testing ways to make cups, lids, and straws easier to recycle and compost
"Starbucks is helping to pave the way for a waste-free future for the foodservice industry," Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, said in a statement.
Starbucks said that each borrowed cup replaces up to 30 disposable cups and that it is part of the company's mission to minimize waste by half by 2030. Technically, the company's current combination of paper and plastic cups "can be recycled under the right circumstances," but they can only be used once.
According to the Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund, Americans use 120 billion disposable coffee cups each year. The inner plastic coating in the cups often makes them unrecyclable.
Starbucks will use the trial to determine if the program is scalable across the entire store network.
In a related move, Starbucks will phase out all disposable cups in its South Korean cafes by 2025. It's the first measure of this magnitude in a major market and will be scrutinized for wider adoption.