TikTok user accuses Starbucks of ‘greenwashing’ with reusable cups

Barista made drink in disposable plastic cup before transferring it to customer’s reusable tumbler

Ethan Freedman
Climate Reporter, New York
Saturday 21 May 2022 00:30
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A TikTok user has accused Starbucks of “greenwashing” after a barista for the coffee chain used a disposable plastic cup to pour a drink into their reusable tumbler.

The user of the social media platform posted a video walking down the street holding a Starbucks-branded reusable cup, with text reading: “Brought my own tumbler to Starbucks, they made the drink in the normal plastic cup and transfered (sic) the coffee into my tumbler, and threw the plastic cup in the trash,” followed by a “face-palm” emoji.

The user labelled this “greenwashing” and captioned the video “I love you but why @Starbucks” with a crying face emoji.

The idea of making a drink in a disposable cup only to transfer it to a reusable cup would seem to defeat the environmental benefits of a reusable cup. But people in the comments section of the video argued about why that might have been the case.

Some people noted that health protocols in place due to Covid might have prevented the baristas from making any drinks in reusable containers, while others surmised that baristas might rely on measurements from the disposable cups to make some drinks.

A spokesperson from Starbucks told The Independent via email that while Covid restrictions did pause the use of reusable cups, stores in Europe, the Middle East and Africa start reaccepting reusable cups in August 2020.

A page on the company’s website states that personal reusable cups were accepted in US stores again starting in June 2021.

“The use of reusables is part of Starbucks ongoing commitment to reducing waste and becoming a resource positive company,” the Starbucks spokesperson said, noting developments like returnable cups and strawless lids in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as reusable cups made from disposable cups.

The company has also reportedly started testing a 100 per cent reusable cup program at a store in Seattle.

A 2020 report found that Starbucks was responsible for 868 kilometre-tonnes of waste, a measure of one tonne moving one kilometre, during the year 2018.

The report also found that company emitted the equivalent of 15.6m tonnes of CO2 that year — equal to almost 3.4m cars in the United States.

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