Exclusive: Starbucks Launches Global Reusable Campaign, Will Offer Up To 2 Million Cups Across APAC

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Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, is going circular. In a new global campaign, the company will be serving handcrafted beverages in reusable cups, offering increased discounts for customers who bring in their own cup for a limited time and gifting free drinks depending on the country, in a bid to get customers into the habit of bringing their own reusables. The initiative will be launched across Starbucks outlets internationally, including in Asia-Pacific, where it expects to offer 2 million reusable cups to customers within the first day. 

Starbucks is launching a new circular campaign globally. Customers across select markets in the Asia Pacific will get a free reusable cup when they buy a handcrafted Starbucks beverage. In Canada, EMEA, Japan and markets including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay, the coffee giant will be giving customers a free coffee or discounted beverage when they bring their reusable cup into stores or they can purchase a drink and get the reusable campaign cup for free. 

For Starbucks’ Latin America and Caribbean markets, such as Chile, Colombia and Mexico, Starbucks will offer customers a reusable cup, which once they’ve paid for will entitle them to a free handcrafted Starbucks beverage while supplies last.

Starbucks goes reusable

Starbucks 50 Year Anniversary Hot Drink Reusable Cup

The reusable cups will be offered for free to Starbucks customers in select markets across APAC, whether it be a short flat white or grande latte. Two cup options are provided, one for hot drinks and the other for cold beverages— both are made from recyclable polypropylene materials and can be reused up to 30 times.  

The campaign will involve almost every region Starbucks operates globally, including in Japan, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and India with local variations in terms of reusable cups or special discounts. Worldwide, Starbucks operates around 32,000 outlets, but the initiative may be rolled out at different times depending on the participating location and country. 

The aim of this campaign, the 50-year-old coffee chain says, is to get more customers to participate in its Bring Your Own promotion, which gives people discounts when they purchase a beverage using their reusable cups. According to Starbucks Asia-Pacific, the campaign is set to dish out as many as 2 million reusable cups in the region within the first day of the launch on September 28. 

Describing the move as a part of the firm’s “journey to becoming a resource-positive-company,” a pledge that Starbucks first made in 2020, Starbucks Asia-Pacific president Sara Trilling said to expect “many more [initiatives] to come.”

“We’re constantly innovating new ways to scale more sustainable solutions across the region,” Trilling added. 

Starbucks Reusable Coffee Cup

Pushing back against single-use 

The decision to promote reusables comes amid a stalling in global efforts to tackle single-use plastic pollution, with the Covid-19 pandemic often cited as a concern for businesses and consumers to stick to disposable takeaway options. 

Many of these worries have been projected by conservative lobbying groups and the plastics industry, who have exploited the pandemic to promote unfounded claims over coronavirus contamination in order to delay action on plastic waste. But recent scientific evidence confirms that reusables do not raise the risk of Covid-19 transmission, as long as basic hygiene and sanitation is practiced. 

Starbucks says that due to the pandemic, its reusable campaign will be rolled out through a “phased approach”. Some markets, such as Hong Kong and Malaysia will see the free reusables deployed this month, while details on other markets and timing will be released “at a later date”. Some Starbucks outlets in select Malaysian states, for instance, have “temporarily paused” the use of reusable cups and tumblers over the crisis. 

When asked about the limited reusability of its cups, which can be used up to 30 times, Starbucks told Green Queen Media that it is “encouraging customers to recycle them through recycling programs and facilities provided by their local authorities.”

Source: Starbucks

Starbucks added that it wants to “bring back personal reusable cups” amid the stalling in anti-plastic efforts globally, and that it has “held extensive trials and adopted enhanced processes to reintroduce reusables with confidence across many of our markets.”

In South Korea, the company recently pledged to eliminate all single-use cups by 2025 and is now “gradually introducing cup circularity programs across the market”. 

Other QSR giants that have recently hopped on the circular bandwagon include Burger King and McDonald’s, both of which are working with zero-waste delivery pioneers Loop to offer customers drinks and food in reusable takeout containers. 

Slashing carbon emissions

Making a dent in its waste footprint is just a part of Starbucks’ resource-positive strategy, it says, with the other major push it has made of late is its commitment to promote more plant-based options on its menu. 

Plant-Based Milk Options At Starbucks

Across the world, the company has begun to ramp up dairy-free drink offerings and launch vegan and vegetarian food items. It’ll not only satisfy the growing swathes of flexitarian consumers globally, with some estimates suggesting 4 in 10 consumers are now “part-time vegans”, but help Starbucks cut down on its carbon impact. 

The company’s reliance on dairy alone accounts for over a fifth of its total greenhouse gas emissions and a seventh of its water footprint.

Last year, Starbucks China launched a new meatless menu in collaboration with Beyond Meat, Oatly and OmniFoods, before extending its plant-forward strategy to eight key Asian markets, with Impossible Foods also on board. 

Commenting on the response from consumers about the company’s sustainability initiatives, a spokesperson for Starbucks told Green Queen Media that it has received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from both Starbucks visitors and employees. 

On its latest anti-disposables push, the company shared that the campaign will “provide valuable insights into how to scale our reusables programs globally, as we work towards our resource-positive goals.”

All images courtesy of Starbucks.


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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