A pair of high-powered names in the beverage market, Starbucks and Pepsi, are taking aim at single-use plastics.
Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. is out with a set of sustainability actions that includes shifting away from single-use plastics and piloting reusable cup programs in six markets around the world, the company said.
Single-use plastics currently play an important part in Starbucks' drink-heavy menu, in both cups and lids for cold drinks. Hot drink lids also are plastic, along with straws and drink stirrers.
While Starbucks might be best known for its roots as a coffeehouse, the company actually has seen the cold drink segment capture an increasing majority of sales in recent years. Cold drinks accounted for about 70 percent of beverage sales last fiscal year, up from about 50 percent in just three years.
Starbucks also signaled its desire to move away from its iconic paper cups for hot drinks, which have a polyethylene lining, and instead push more reusable drinkware.
The moves, Starbucks said, are part of a "bold aspiration to be a resource-positive company — giving back more than it takes from the planet."
Here's what the company had to say about plastics: "To help reach the company's goal of reducing waste by 50 percent by 2030, Starbucks is shifting away from single-use plastics and piloting reusable cup programs in six markets around the world."
Starbucks declined a live interview request for additional details but offered to answer questions via email. A Starbucks spokesman responded to questions but did not provide specifics regarding single-use plastics.
"Our goal, by 2025, is to create a cultural movement towards reusables by giving customers easy access to a personal or Starbucks-provided reusable to-go cup for every visit," the spokesman said.
"By the end of next year, customers will be able to use their own personal reusable cup for every Starbucks visit in the U.S. and Canada — including in cafe, drive-thru and mobile order and pay," he said.
The company is also looking at the widespread use of reusable cups that can be returned after use and has committed research money through the NextGen Cup Challenge overseen by Closed Loop Partners. This effort, underway since 2018, aims to find an alternative to disposable paper cups. This is especially important to Starbucks, which for years has been working to find an alternative for PE-lined beverage cups.
The company is testing several reusable cup models in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Singapore.
This plastic lining hurdle is not limited to Starbucks. PE is a common solution to maintain the integrity of paper drink cups used throughout the restaurant industry. NextGen estimates some 250 billion to-go cups are used each year.
Starbucks also has launched a new waste and recycling app to allow locations to "navigate complex and unique store recycling guidelines," the company spokesman said. "Ultimately, we want our packaging to be recyclable in both material and practice, so that our customers have access to recycling services wherever they choose to dispose of their waste."