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Will reusable cups become as common as grocery totes?

来源:BBC 作者: 时间:2024-01-11 Tag: 点击:
As Starbucks begins to encourage multi-use cups for on-the-go orders, paper cups may soon go the way of plastic bags and single-use water bottles.

Starbucks customers who zip through drive-throughs or pick up mobile orders are used to baristas handing over their beverages in the coffee chain's signature single-use cups. Now, change is coming. Disposable cups aren't going away, but consumers in the US and Canada will now be able to bring their favourite reusable cups for on-the-go drink runs.

The programme, which was tested across in select stores across Europe and Asia, is already in effect, as of 3 January. Starbucks says the initiative is part of their commitment to reduce waste by 50% as of 2030.

The idea that consumers can bring in their own cups isn't new, especially across independent coffee shops, which encourage their customers to use personal cups. However, due to Starbucks's high profile, and the sheer number of store locations throughout the US and Canada, the company's announcement could provide more momentum to push along the adoption of reusable cups.

However, the beginning of the road could be rocky, says Bryan Bollinger, an associate professor of marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business.

For one, the environmental impact of paper-cup waste is simply not as high-profile as the impact of plastic bags. Consumers are increasingly aware of the damage that single-use plastic has on the ecosystem, including the dire effects on marine life. However, research shows that paper cups are also environmental hazards, largely due to a plastic lining that needs to be removed before recycling. (Indeed, consumers who are already sustainability-minded are likely already using their own cups, says Bollinger.)

However, barriers to adoption still stand, even if the profile of the paper-cup waste issue rises. One major setback for personal cups might be the customer experience: a challenge that comes with bringing reusable cups for drive-through and mobile orders is the potential increase in wait time. "If bringing a reusable cup delays the fulfilment of the order, as we might expect with drinks that take longer to prepare, then this reduces the set of customers who will be willing to make the change," he says.

There is also one ongoing issue plaguing the use of reusable vessels, such as multi-use shopping bags, that may also extend to cups. Consumers often forget them for shopping trips, or they may decide to go shopping at a time when they don't have their bags, says Bollinger. He explains that this will likely be a problem with personal cups as well. "Customers will need to remember to bring reusable cups along with them when they leave their home or office or bring a new, clean cup to the car before leaving home for the day."

That said, he still believes there's potential for a perspective shift.

First, there is precedent that reusable vessels can become mainstream. Multi-use shopping bags have become standard; BPA-free plastic, glass and aluminium water bottles, too, are regular accessories (in some cases, they've even become status symbols, like the current frenzy about the Stanley tumbler).

Consumers, too, may find themselves financially incentivised. For instance, the passage of mandates against single-use plastic bags as well as fees for using store-provided bags catalysed widespread adoption, says Bollinger. As of the end of 2020, more than a dozen US states have implemented single-use plastic bag bans.

People may also be able to save money by bringing reusable cups on their drink runs. Many cafés already offer small discounts for bringing them from home. Starbucks, too, has begun to roll out incentives for Starbucks Rewards members when they bring reusable mugs.

Experts are still hopeful consumer behaviour may change in an impactful way, especially as similar polices spread across retailers. Jonah Berger, an associate professor of marketing at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks other companies will follow Starbucks's lead. And if reusable cups will be accepted at multiple establishments, consumers will see carrying a cup as less of a burden and more of a value add.

Ultimately, every customer who adopts a new sustainable habit counts towards a shift, no matter how incremental, says Berger.

"Reusable bags took some time to catch on, but hopefully reusable cups will gain traction even faster. It didn't happen overnight, but eventually, consumers got used to bringing reusable bags and changed their behaviour," he says. "We may see the usage of reusable cups become more of a norm as we have seen with reusable bags over time."



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