Starbucks Debuts Cold Drink Cups with 20% Less Plastic

Starbucks says cups the ‘more sustainable,’ and cheaper to make.

April 22, 2024

Starbucks has unveiled a new line of "more sustainable" cold beverage cups that are made with up to 20 percent less plastic than their predecessors, reported FoxBusiness.

The coffee QSR announced that the cups—which are part of the company's "commitment to cut its carbon, water and waste footprints in half by 2030"—will debut in stores across the United States and Canada this month.

Amelia Landers, Starbucks’ vice president of product innovation, said the Seattle-based company spent the last four years developing the new containers. Engineers tested thousands of iterations to see how much plastic they could remove while still making the cup feel sturdy.

“We feel like it’s industry-leading,” Landers told AP News. “It’s the best expression of a cold plastic cup.”

Starbucks said in its statement that “based on analysis of life cycle assessments, producing the new cups is projected to save, annually, emissions equivalent to taking about 5,200 cars off the road, and conserving about 2,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water. The new cups will keep more than 13.5 million pounds of plastic from landfills each year. And they cost less to make.”

Starbucks said that through the creation process, "[b]aristas made drinks in test and store settings, rating the feel and performance of different iterations."

“Accessibility features were folded in. Raised dots signify different sizes that can be felt by a swipe of the thumb, for those with low visibility. Letters are embossed on the bottom of the cup, so baristas can quickly confirm what size they’re grabbing during a busy rush when all the cups are stacked upside down," the company also said. "Black and white ‘fill lines,’ indicating measurement specifications, allow for contrast against both light- and dark-colored drinks.”

In February, Starbucks announced it was creating a more accessible store experience across its U.S. store portfolio through an Inclusive Spaces Framework.

Sustainable packaging is gaining ground as a social responsibility factor, moving it to the forefront for retailers. A large portion of customers are focused on putting their dollars in places where they believe in what a company is doing. And customers are increasingly expecting brands to do “the right thing.”

For more on sustainable packaging, and the state of food packaging in general, check out “In The Bag” from the March 2024 issue of NACS Magazine.