Whether you like to grab a quick morning coffee at Starbucks, order a smoothie from a health-focused juice bar or sip an afternoon iced tea at your local diner, chances are you’ve sipped out of a white, or occasionally holiday-themed, logo-emblazoned paper cup or clear plastic one. It’s a ubiquitous symbol of your favorite brand, but the disposable cups can have a huge environmental impact. They’re tossed away after use, where they may end up in landfills or as litter on streets and waterways.
Some might be recycled, but that’s an imperfect solution. It takes energy and resources to make recyclable items, and those items can still end up in landfills. Starbucks is aiming to reduce the number of disposable cups it distributes, and it wants customers to help by using reusable cups. The company recently released a line of nonseasonal cups, which are available year-round, and some locations now offer a “Borrow A Cup” program, where customers pay a deposit to get a cup that they can bring back for refills.
These aren’t the first reusable cups to hit the market, but they have sparked a movement among some fans. Some of the most popular reusable cups include a colorful summer design and a cup that’s both spill-proof and lid-free. Some also have small but always-open sip holes, which makes them perfect for drinking on the go and for those who like their coffee piping hot.
The most popular of these reusable cups is the MiiR’s glass model, which is a great choice for both home and office. It comes with a straw hole and is a little bigger than the standard Starbucks plastic cup, so it can hold more liquid. Samya Said, former manager of training at Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea in Seattle, recommends this option because it’s designed with an inner slope so baristas can pour a “beautiful drink every time.”
Another great option is the Corkcicle Cold Cup, which is BPA-free and comes in a variety of colors. It also offers triple insulation, a ceramic-coated straw and a cup holder-friendly design. Founders Brandon and Jordan Leeds say they created the product after seeing tons of plastic trash on Miami beaches and waterways.
This cup is made with heat-safe bio-based plastic sourced from renewable resources such as corn starch, tapioca roots or sugarcane. It can be used for cold or hot drinks and is fully commercially compostable in 180 days.
It’s unlikely that these new reusable cups will put an end to the popularity of Starbucks’ disposable paper and plastic cups. But, if they can convince some of those loyal fans to switch, it could have a big impact. If all goes well, the company hopes to roll out the program in more stores next year. And if it can do that, then it will have successfully tapped into the power of branding, functional products and exclusive, limited-edition hype. Much like Beanie Babies did before them.