BIZNOTE: Starbucks pilots ‘Borrow A Cup’ program at 4 West Seattle stores

Starbucks, like many coffee purveyors, has not yet resumed accepting personal cups. But for customers uneasy about all the resulting waste, they’ve just launched a pilot program called Borrow A Cup – testing it at five stores, four of them in West Seattle.

(Fauntleroy/Avalon cup return – photo courtesy Starbucks)

At a participating store, you can “borrow” one of these cups for your hot or cold beverage for a one-dollar deposit, which is refunded when you return the cup in one of two ways: Scanning and dropping it in a special box at a participating store, or having door-to-door recycler Ridwell pick it up if you’re a member. Either way, baristas don’t have to handle used cups – they’re collected, cleaned, sanitized, and returned to stores by a company called GO Box. Starbucks says the cups are USA-made “from a very lightweight polypropylene plastic … the same material used in our current cold cups and both our hot and cold cup lids, and is recyclable in Seattle.” Each cup is expected to get about 30 uses The pilot program is running through the end of May; participating stores are at California/ Fauntleroy, California/Alaska, Westwood Village, and Avalon/Fauntleroy. (the fifth is at 4th/Diagonal in SODO).

P.S. The “borrowable” cups are available for 12-, 16-, and 24-ounce drinks, but 31-ounce drinks are still only available in single-use cups.

30 Replies to "BIZNOTE: Starbucks pilots 'Borrow A Cup' program at 4 West Seattle stores"

  • Count Me Out April 6, 2021 (12:55 pm)

    Ew gross.

    • waikiki girl April 7, 2021 (4:48 am)

      LOL! That was my first thoughts too!!!

    • S April 7, 2021 (7:54 am)

      It’s not gross. How is this any different from eating a a restaurant?

  • Flan April 6, 2021 (1:05 pm)

    Interesting concept as I always forget to bring my reusable cup. The $1 deposit might have people not do it if its technically cheaper to just not do it. Found that Starbucks just released a video about it too: New Test: Borrow a Cup, Save a Cup – YouTube

  • Shufflerunner April 6, 2021 (1:09 pm)

    Ah, the needle exchange of a socially acceptable addiction – I’m for it!

  • Mellow Kitty April 6, 2021 (1:42 pm)

    Interesting idea. I’m curious about how the test runs will go, and look forward to the results. 

  • Brian April 6, 2021 (2:50 pm)

    I’ve been using it and it’s super easy to return a cup. As an incentive, you also get 10 points/stars for each cup returned. 

  • Sillygoose April 6, 2021 (2:56 pm)

    Love this idea but curious do you actually get $1.00 in cash upon the cup return or a credit to Starbucks?

    • Sue April 6, 2021 (3:03 pm)

      According to the website, it’s $1 credit and 10 reward stars.

    • CAM April 6, 2021 (3:12 pm)

      The deposit you made from your Starbucks account gets credited back to your account. You have 14 days to return the cup for credit so I’ve been returning it the next time I go, meaning, the deposit just goes to the next cup. 

    • M April 6, 2021 (4:50 pm)

      I’ve been using every day and LOVE it. The deposit credits have appeared for me within minutes of returning the cup. I also got the Ridwell bag but haven’t tried it yet. I’d be curious how one gets the credits back from that method. I REALLY hope enough people us it during the pilot that it continues. 

      • Ryan April 6, 2021 (7:18 pm)

        Ryan from Ridwell here. When we pick up any cups from your bin, we count the number and then credit $1 for each back to your SBUX account via your email. Should happen within 24 hours. This is a pilot for us that we hope to make much bigger, so would love any feedback.

  • KM April 6, 2021 (3:28 pm)

    Would love to see this type of deposit/reusable exchange at grocery stores for bulk items, butcher/seafood counters, deli counters. Even after the pandemic ends, the county’s health code prohibits customers from brining their own reusable containers for non-self-serve items (at least it did a few years ago). This would be a great solution.

    • AliAlki April 6, 2021 (4:32 pm)

      Yes please KM~! Thank is a great idea! 

    • R April 6, 2021 (7:52 pm)

      The washington hospitality association is/was lobbying for changing the health codes in order to allow to-go containers to be returned and reused (after proper sanitation, of course). Interesting idea.

    • Angela April 7, 2021 (9:08 am)

      Agreem KM! Go Box, the company that is professionally cleaning the cups, offers a reusable to go box service like this, though mostly in the Portland area at the moment. 

  • TJ April 6, 2021 (6:22 pm)

    A little corny 

    • Iknowyou April 6, 2021 (7:53 pm)

      Not as corny as throwing a fit because the health department advised against going on your annual rafting trip.

      • Jort April 6, 2021 (11:28 pm)

        Or as corny throwing a hissy about Seattle’s taxes and then moving to a higher tax state. 

  • Carol April 6, 2021 (6:38 pm)

    Loving this! I had been bringing my personal cup and asking for no lid, no sleeve on the paper cup but this takes it to the next level. I get the reusable cup, pour it into my personal cup, and do an immediate return of the cup. I have gotten my credit within a minute . 

    • Good idea! April 7, 2021 (8:17 am)

      What a great idea!!

    • Matt P April 7, 2021 (12:15 pm)

      Isn’t that pretty wasteful since you’d have to use water to wash 2 cups now?

  • jissy April 6, 2021 (9:18 pm)

    My thought exactly, Count Me Out.   

  • Anything we can do... April 7, 2021 (8:22 am)

    Whatever can be done, by each & every one of us, on a small, daily, moment by moment level to REDUCE, REUSE & RECYCLE seems to me to be the OBVIOUS choice! Way to go Starbucks!! This almost makes me want to spend $10 at one of your stores, just to support the program… Please everyone, support your local, family owned & run business. Pegasus Books needs our help Right Now. See the WSB’s entry below this one, and please help. I’ve donated.

  • SBUX Partner April 7, 2021 (9:06 am)

    Thank you WSB for highlighting this program! A couple of additional info tidbits that might be interesting for folks:

    1. You can return the cup with the lid, but you don’t have to! The lids are the same as those used on the non-reusable cups, so you can recycle at home or they will be recycled after pickup.
    2. A Starbucks Rewards account (and mobile app) are required to participate – signup is free if you don’t have one already.
    3. You can order the Re-usable cup via mobile order on the app – just check in the “merchandise” section.
    4. The $1 credit and 10 star bonus should return to your account within an hour of the cup return (at kiosk). If you return via Ridwell, it’ll take a little longer :).

  • dunnkld April 7, 2021 (9:48 am)

    I guess this will be a good program for people who forgot /are not allowed to use a personal cup and have a Starbucks app. But really, are we still that worried about surface contamination transmitting the virus? Don’t food workers wear gloves and wash their hands? After 30 uses, what really happens to this polypropylene plastic cup after it is recycled? I’d rather see Starbucks hand out coffee in china cups and rely on people’s honor or a deposit to bring the cup back or the health department start allowing personal cups again. You might see a lot of smashed china, but isn’t that better than all the plastic we are creating and then having to deal with in the environment?

  • Buddy April 7, 2021 (10:42 am)

    I have an extremely excellent idea, why don’t people stop wasting their money and save it instead of spending money every day on buying coffee at Starbucks. Make your own coffee and breakfast at home and take it with you. Our society is full of people who are in debt and have many credit cards to pay off due to spending around $5.00 a day on coffee and pop and other items which does believe it add up over time and can put people into debt. 

  • Do more please April 7, 2021 (3:06 pm)

    The waste that is generated by the Starbucks and coffee industry all around the world on a daily business has been concerning me for years. As a customer, I feel bad contributing this. 

    I’ve been trying to think of ideas to propose and have thought to write Starbucks executives to encourage them to do more to reduce their footprint. Thinking about all of those coffee cups and lids, millions if not billions disposed of, so many not even recycled, just really bothers me. All that ‘double cupping’ too…

    It is great to see some initiative, a step in the right direction, but I would like to see a lot more. How about developing a new biodegradable cup that is produced using green energy, all packaging recyclable? 

    How about really encouraging/campaigning customers to bring their own mug, offering incentive to those who do?

    How about at the very least educate customers better to let them know coffee cups and lids are recyclable and offer clearly marked recycle bins at EVERY location?

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