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This new Shanghai Starbucks has only reusable cups—and reusable everything else

The store is a test to see if the coffee giant can design for the circular economy.

This new Shanghai Starbucks has only reusable cups—and reusable everything else
[Photo: Starbucks]

At a new Starbucks store in Shanghai, customers won’t be able to get their coffee in a paper cup. Every option in the store is reusable, including new grande-size reusable cups that the company is rolling out for the first time. It’s one part of the retailer’s approach to embracing a circular design in the store.

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[Image: Starbucks]
Half of the materials used to build the store’s interior are recycled, including components like wood, stairs, and door handles that were saved from other stores in the city during renovations. A modular bar inside is designed to later be reused elsewhere itself. “We’re designing it so it can be taken apart, moved around, reconstructed, or disassembled,” says Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at Starbucks.

[Photo: Starbucks]
All of the coffee grounds generated at the store will be recycled or composted. Digital receipts will replace paper receipts, and other paper items in the store, like menus, are also now digitized. Baristas will use aprons made from recycled plastic. Space inside the store will be dedicated to sharing products from local designers that use circular design principles.

[Image: Starbucks]
The store also includes “Greener Store” features that Starbucks already uses in North American stores, including the use of renewable energy and an efficient design that saves water and energy. The company has 2,300 stores using this framework in the U.S. and Canada, and now is expanding, with plans to build or retrofit 10,000 stores around the world over the next four years.

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[Image: Starbucks]
In Shanghai, the first store under the framework built outside North America, the company decided to go a step further to test circular design principles. “It’s really kind of imagining the possibilities within the Greener Store standard that we put together and pushing the boundaries of that to try to be as innovative as possible,” Kobori says. The store also serves as many plant-based products on the menu as possible. Oat milk will be the default option.

[Image: Starbucks]
Rethinking store design is one piece of the company’s strategy to become what it calls “resource positive”—a challenge for a retailer that emits around 16 million tons of CO2 across its value chain each year, uses a billion cubic meters of water, and creates 868,000 tons of waste. By the end of the decade, the company plans to cut its water and waste footprint in half.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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