What Is And Isn't Eligible For Starbucks' Bring Your Own Cup Policy

Now that Starbucks has implemented its bring-your-own-cup system in stores across the country, customers ought to learn how to take advantage of this policy. Customers can now use a reusable personal cup when ordering through the app, in the drive-thru, or in-store, but the types of cups that baristas can and cannot accept are determined by health and safety concerns. Customers are asked to bring clean, reusable cups with the lid removed. Any dirty cups are not eligible, as baristas are not allowed to rinse them out, so they will be turned away.

As long as a customer's cup is large enough to contain the drink they order, sizing isn't an issue. Baristas are now equipped with special measuring cups to mix together drinks before transferring them into personal cups, thus ensuring that drinks are made in standard sizes with the correct ingredient ratios. Personal cups will pass from customer to barista and back again by use of a contactless cup holder, to further limit the spread of any germs. There's now little chance of awkwardly brushing fingers with your barista as you take your drink from them.

It's also important to note that licensed Starbucks locations, such as those in grocery stores and airports, may or may not participate in the BYO cup system. Simply ask your barista if they'll accept your clean, personal cup to find out. You'll definitely want to ask, as the company is now providing special perks for participating customers.

Starbucks is encouraging customers to reuse their cups

Though reducing landfill waste is definitely a reward for using the BYO cup system, Starbucks is offering further incentives for customers to try it out. Each time a customer brings a personal cup to Starbucks, they will receive a $0.10 discount on their order, as well as 25 stars added to their rewards account.

The discount and extra points can be redeemed three times per day, so be sure to clean your favorite coffee cup between orders. Of course, the cap of three redemptions per day means you won't get any special rewards on your fourth cup of coffee. At that point, however, you've earned nearly enough stars for a free iced coffee anyway, so the tradeoff is worthwhile.

Currently, Starbucks' disposable cups make up about 20% of its total waste output, and only about 1% of customers took part in reusing cups during the chain's 2023 test run. Perhaps the new incentives will encourage more customers to participate.

The green evolution of Starbucks

Starbucks has made it a priority to reduce their waste production, using both the BYO cup system and other practices. Following calls for plastic straw bans in 2018, Starbucks stepped up its green game and began phasing out its plastic straws. However, the chain was still producing about four billion paper cups a year, with are unsuitable for recycling due to their plastic lining.

This has led the company to experiment with other measures in countries outside of the United States. In 2021, Starbucks Korea announced a plan to phase out all disposable cups by 2025, offering customers the incentive of a refunded deposit when they return a cup. The company estimated a reduction of 5 million wasted cups per year, and has seen more than 111 million reusable cups pass through its stores since 2007.

Although the U.S. is still behind in terms of ecological impact, American Starbucks locations have since introduced straw-less lids for cold and iced drinks –- essentially a sippy cup lid for your cold brew. The chain still intends to cut its waste in half by 2030, and in the meantime, it's also investing in recycling partnerships and eco-friendly packaging solutions.