Starbucks changes cups, hoping you won’t tell the difference

A lot of companies are moving towards becoming greener, whether it’s in the way they run their business or the products that they provide. That’s why Starbucks is testing a prototype cup with a biodegradable liner in some of its stores. At the start of the month, the coffee chain began distributing revamped recyclable and compostable drinkware in test outlets across New York, San Francisco, Seattle, London and Vancouver.

The difference is barely noticeable, which Starbucks is hoping you won’t. While its still a paper cup, the new ones are supposed to look and feel like a regular Starbucks cup. What sets it apart is that it’s coated with a compostable liner instead of plastic. 12 prototypes were considered before picking the BioPBS liner. Now, the cups can now be composted by industrial composters.

While Starbucks’ plastic-lined cups are recyclable, many facilities do not remove the plastic linings from the paper drinkware, possibly clogging up machinery in turn. However, even with the new compostable linings, recycling facilities will still have to separate them from the paper cups. Thus, Starbucks is only working with partners from participating cities who are able to do a separation for this test.

At present, cost-effective solutions that are up-to-par with plastic-lined paper cups — which are lightweight, stackable, and prevent leaks — are difficult to find. While the chain is testing these compostable cups, they’re still exploring options, which are the culmination of Starbucks’ NextGen Cup Challenge; the six-month design competition received hundreds of ideas.

Aside from compostable linings, Starbucks also experimented with a reusable cup system where customers of the location at London’s Gatwick airport could return empty drinkware at ‘Cup Check-In’ points. Additionally, Starbucks has been offering discounts Sto patrons who would bring in their own drinkware to store their beverages, but the activity is being paused over COVID-19 concerns. The company’s goal was to have a more recyclable and compostable hot cup “solution” by 2022.