How Starbucks plans to reduce its paper cup waste

Editor's note: In May 2012, GreenBiz Senior Writer Marc Gunther wrote a piece suggesting how Starbucks could generate less waste from its paper cups. Read it here.

Starbucks is seeking to serve greener refills by selling cheap, reusable plastic cups to replace some of the billions of paper cups handed out in stores each year.

The world's largest coffee shop chain began offering the so-called "personal tumblers" for $1 a piece across its stores in the U.S. and Canada yesterday.

The move is the latest promotion by Starbucks to reduce waste sent to landfill. Customers who bring their own cups already receive a discount on their drinks in stores globally.

According to Starbucks' latest sustainability report, the company requires approximately four billion cups globally each year, the majority of which are handed out in disposable paper cups – many of which are not recycled.

In 2008, the company set a goal to serve a quarter of all its drinks in reusable plastic cups by 2015, and has promoted them in the past by offering free coffee to customers who brought their own cups.

However, Starbucks was forced to revise its target down to five percent by 2015 last year after finding the initial 25 percent target too challenging.

The company said 1.9 percent of drinks were sold in reusable cups in 2011, meaning customers brought their own cups into stores more than 34 million times. As a result, more than 1.5 million pounds of paper waste were saved from landfill.

Photo of Starbucks coffeehouse provided by Tupungato/Shutterstock

This article is reprinted with permisison from BusinessGreen.