Starbucks to end disposable cup use in South Korea by 2025

Starbucks will launch a "cup circularity" programme in South Korea.
Starbucks will launch a "cup circularity" programme in South Korea.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - Starbucks Corp plans to eliminate disposable cups from its cafes across South Korea by 2025, the first such measure in a major market by the coffee giant, as it seeks to curb landfill waste and cut its carbon footprint.

The Seattle-based chain will launch a "cup circularity" programme in South Korea, starting July, as it begins tackling its global refuse, which accounted for about 9 per cent of its 16 million-ton carbon footprint in 2018. Under the programme, customers will be served beverages in reusable cups that require a "small deposit," which is refunded on return to contactless kiosks, the company said in a statement Tuesday (April 6).

South Korea, which has pledged to zero out planet-warming gases by 2050, revised a set of laws in February further limiting the use of plastic and other disposable items from retailers, food-delivery services and hotels. The revision came after the Asian nation imposed a ban on the use of plastic cups for in-store customers at all cafes in 2018.

The Starbucks move is a shift after global retail giants put sustainability efforts into reverse last year amid health concerns due to the coronavirus, undermining years of work by governments and environmentalists to wean consumers off single-use plastics.

Starbucks, which last year temporarily suspended reusable cups over fears of transmission, will allow customers in South Korea to bring their own tumblers again, the statement said. The country is the coffee chain's fifth-biggest market with more than 1,500 stores and it plans to expand its current workforce there about 30 per cent by adding more than 5,500 new jobs with a focus on young graduates, elderly citizens and people with disabilities by 2025.

Under the founder and former Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz, Starbucks focused on sustainability including by purchasing renewable energy and giving discounts to customers who brought their own tumblers.