In an iffy experiment, Starbucks is rolling out a $1 reusable plastic coffee tumbler to reduce waste from its current paper coffee cups and to appeal to an environmentally conscious public.
The Seattle-based coffee retailer, the world's largest, is already test marketing the new cup in 600 Pacific Northwest stores and will start selling the cups in all of its U.S. and Canada stores soon. Jim Hanna, the director of environmental affairs for Starbucks, said customers in the test market were using disposable paper cups 26 percent less than previously.
Because of the cup's relatively low cost to customers, Starbucks is hoping more people will curb their throw-away cup habit. As part of the bargain, the company will offer a 10-cent discount to users bringing in the cup for subsequent purchases. Providing that happens, the tumbler would pay for itself after about 10 purchases.
The new tumbler is made of washable plastic and resembles its paper predecessor with the company’s famous green logo. Hanna notes that Starbucks baristas will rinse each cup with boiling water before use to curb the spread of germs that some critics are worried about.
Thousands of members of the public have signed petitions on Change.org calling for the phase-out of fast-food companies’ glut of disposable materials, including foam cups. McDonald's began testing a paper cup at some of its stores last year and Dunkin' Donuts plans to do the same this year,
Some environmental proponents are skeptical that the new Starbucks cup will have an impact on customers’ habits, pointing to the fact that consumers seem to respond more effectively when charged a fee for something like plastic bag use, rather than having an incentive to bring in an environment-saving item such as the tumbler — let alone paying for it.
"A bigger factor is human behavior," Conrad MacKerron, an official for a non-profit group advocating corporate social responsibility, told USA Today
. "I have friends who are environmentalists, and they have trouble remembering their mug. We're so used to this disposable culture."
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