Starbucks Expands Returnable Cup Program in Seattle

Woman drinking from a reusable cup

Updated June 2024

Latest test at the Starbucks Community Store inside Kraken Community Iceplex continues long tradition of advancing sustainability in our hometown  

At Starbucks, it is our environmental promise to give more than we take. That is why we are making it easier for our customers to use reusable cups and reduce waste sent to landfill from our stores. Today in the US and Canada, customers can bring their own personal reusable cup no matter how they order, and we continue to test how to provide a returnable cup experience we can scale.  

Many of our most innovative sustainable packaging tests start right in our company’s hometown in Seattle, Washington, thanks to innovative partnerships with local organizations  who share our visionto better the planet. The city is where we first offered a personal cup discount, trialed our strawless lid, and hosted one of the first reusable cup tests in partnership with Ridwell. 

Returnable Cups at Kraken Community Iceplex 

Starting June 24, the Starbucks Community Store inside the Kraken Community Iceplex (KCI) in Seattle, is serving every beverage, hot and cold, in a returnable cup as part of our latest reusables test. Customers can enjoy their drink and deposit it in return bins located around the facility to be professionally washed and used again. In addition, customers can bring their own clean, personal cup to receive a $0.10 discount and 25 Bonus Stars for Starbucks Rewards members or opt for a ceramic or glass For Here Cup if they are enjoying their beverage in the cafe.  

“First and foremost, we are a people company serving coffee, and supporting the community means protecting the planet we all share. We are excited to partner with KCI and invite local community members to experience our unique returnable cup program,” said Michael Kobori. “As we continue to test and learn, our future vision is to bring this reusables model to similar store environments where customers remain nearby while drinking their beverage including universities, hospitals, airports, and more.”  

This latest test is just another way Starbucks and KCI are partnering together to make a positive impact on the community and the planet, building on their support for nonprofit programs that advance equity for youth in sports, focus on local hiring and work with neighborhood artists.  

The SODO 8 Returnable Cup Program  

Our SODO 8 store inside the Starbucks Support Center office headquarters in Seattle has been providing customers with a returnable cup for every order since early 2022. By default, drinks are provided in returnable cups with return bins located around the office building and kitchens. Customers can bring their own personal cup, too. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the returnable cup program work?

  1. Order your drink as usual
  2. Your drink will be served in a Borrow-a-Cup
  3. Enjoy your drink wherever you wish
  4. When finished, return the cup to one of the kiosks located around the building and in the kitchen areas. The cup will be professionally washed and sanitized, ready to be used again.

These reusable cups are suitable for both hot and cold drinks, and are available in Tall, Grande and Venti sizes. These cups are also 100% recyclable .  

When will returnable cups be available across the country?  

We’re working together with our partners to develop a returnable cup experience we can scale, learning from returnable cup tests in over 25 markets around the world.  

We anticipate the tests to be a permanent feature at the SODO 8 store and Kraken Community IcePlex  Community Store.  

What are you learning from the tests?  

For every test, we gather feedback from store partners (employees) about how well returnable cups fit into existing operations. Each test is intentionally different (even the name!) to help us find the best possible operational model globally. 

We are also eager to learn about customer habits and opinions about the cup itself, such as: How quickly are they returned? Do customers rinse the cups prior to return? Do they enjoy drinking from the cup? We are also testing the impact on operations of retaining an external company to sanitize the cups offsite.  

How are the cups cleaned?  

Once the cups are returned to the store, they are commercially washed and sanitized to Starbucks high standards. They are then visually inspected for a final check.  

Can customers use returnable cups at stores that are not participating in a test?  

Customers who are choosing to sit and stay in the cafe can ask their barista for a For Here Cup, a ceramic or glass cup that will be washed and used again. Customers in the US and Canada can also order with a clean, personal cup in our cafés and receive a $0.10 discount on their beverage, and Starbucks Rewards members in the US will receive 25 Bonus Stars. 

Find out more about our reusables efforts and commitments to cut our carbon, water and waste footprints in half by 2030.

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Starbucks Milano Duetto – an innovative ode to coffee, arts and culture