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Starbucks trial 5p cup charge in bid to reduce plastic waste

Starbucks have started charging 5p for disposable coffee cups in 35 London stores as part of a three-month trial. Starbucks’ announcement comes weeks after MPs called for a general 25p latte levy on disposable coffee cups.

Starbucks has introduced a 5p charge for single-use cups in its central London locations in an attempt to help tackle a plastic waste epidemic plaguing the UK. 

Customers who bring their own mug will not have to pay the extra 5p in 35 Starbucks branches for the duration of the three-month trial which began in February 2018. If it’s successful the company may roll it out to other outlets, the Seattle-based coffee giant said.

Starbucks and some other chains already offer discounts for people who bring a reusable cup but this is the first time a major coffee seller is charging extra for single-use cups in the UK.

Half a million coffee cups are dropped as litter each day in the UK

Research has demonstrated that people are more likely to change their behaviour if a price difference is framed as an extra cost rather than a discount. The company is working with environmental charity Hubbub on the trial to assess how the charge impacts consumers’ choices.

“We’re hoping that this charge will remind customers to rethink their use of single-use plastic-lined cups, as it has with plastic bags,” said Simon Redfern of Starbucks Europe. 

“We’ve offered a reusable cup discount for 20 years, with only 1.8 per cent of customers currently taking up this offer, so we’re really interested in working with Hubbub to see how this charge could help to change behaviour and help to reduce waste,” he added.

Starbucks’ own research found that almost half of people surveyed said they would definitely carry a reusable cup to avoid the charge.

Last month, Pret a Manger doubled the discount it offers for customers drinking from reusable cups to 50p. Starbucks already offers its own 25p discount.

Starbucks’ announcement comes weeks after MPs called for a general 25p latte levy on disposable coffee cups. They also called for all disposable coffee cups to be recyclable by 2023. 

The UK throws away around 2.5 billion coffee cups every year, with less than 1 per cent being recycled.