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Starbucks is testing reusable coffee cups at London’s Gatwick airport

Starbucks is testing reusable coffee cups at London’s Gatwick airport
[Photo: Szymon Jarocki/Unsplash]

One of the few places to find respite in the modern airport experience, at least for those of us who don’t have access to fancy airport lounges, is to grab a cup of coffee to sip on while you wait for the inevitable flight delay announcement. However, as we all become more eco-conscious, using a single-use plastic lid and single-use paper cup destined for the ever-growing trash heap seems wasteful.

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Now Starbucks is working on a solution that will let you drink your double Americano without the guilt. The ubiquitous coffee chain is launching a first-of-its kind trial program to bring reusable cups to London’s Gatwick airport.

The program, which was created in conjunction with environmental nonprofit Hubbub, lets Starbucks customers pay five pence for a disposable cup or borrow one of the 2,000 or so reusable cups for their drink for free. If they choose the reusable option, they simply chug their sugar-free cinnamon dolce double shot lattes and, when they are done, drop the cup off at one of five “Cup Check-In” points throughout the airport. The cups are collected from there, washed, and put back into circulation.

Easy, right?

Swapping reusable cups for disposable ones could help cut down on the seven million paper cups Gatwick reportedly disposes of each year, of which 5.3 million are recycled. According to Hubbub, the month-long trial program will help it figure out whether “people’s concern about plastic waste can be translated into practical action if it is made easy and convenient.” The company plans to track the number of returned cups, experimenting with different collection points to maximize the return rate.

The program was paid for thanks to Starbucks adding a five pence (that’s around six cents) surcharge for disposable cups in its U.K. shops. The money was then donated to environmental charity Hubbub, which is using the funds to run the program at Gatwick. Why that’s easier than Starbucks doing it on its own is unclear.

Starbucks estimates that if even just 250 customers a day opt for a reusable cup, more than 7,000 cups could be saved in the month-long trial, Bloomberg writes. While the airport is a great place to give the program a trial run, the program will hopefully be rolled out across the chain. The move is in line with Starbucks’ announcement last July that it would phase out plastic straws from all of its stores by 2020, but it still has a long way to go to curb its plastic use.

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