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Disposable Coffee Cups No Longer An Option At Some Blue Bottle Cafes

by Rudy Sanchez on 01/08/2020 | 3 Minute Read

There was a time when coffee was something one sat down to drink in a charming mug, and then they continued on with their day. While to-go coffee has long existed, it has now become the de facto way java gets served up. While disposable cups are a convenient, relatively safe way to transport beverages from the coffeehouse to somewhere else, millions end up in landfills because you can't recycle them, and they don’t keep drinks at an optimal temperature as long as more durable, reusable tumblers or other bean juice vessels.

With literal billions of coffee cups served every year and adding to the continuing single-use plastic dilemma, coffee outlets are assuming some of the responsibility for decreasing the amount of waste created in their operations by designing a better cup, such as McDonald’s and Starbucks-Dunkin’ has even switched to a less-bad cup, much to the chagrin of some loyal customers. 

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Blue Bottle also wants to get in on the action. Recently, they moved to a better alternative for their conventional to-go cups by going compostable, but they soon discovered those were still going straight to landfill. In light of this discovery, the coffee chain decided to experiment and do away with single-use cups altogether.

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Blue Bottle CEO Bryan Meehan in a blog post announcing the change recognized that it wouldn’t be an easy change, saying, “we are proud to announce an experiment that may not work, that may cost us money, and that may make your life a little more complicated.” Bryan says that the ultimate goal is for all locations to go waste-free as defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance standards, which means at least 90% of garbage gets diverted from landfills at year’s close.

Initially, Blue Bottle will pilot the no-to-go cup policy in the San Francisco Bay area, and they will offer customers without their own cup the option of paying a deposit on a reusable vessel they can return at a later date. Additionally, Blue Bottle will sell their coffee beans in bulk instead of using disposable bags while their grab-and-go items will come in reusable containers.

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Meehan did not provide more specifics but noted that their San Francisco pilot program would guide them on how to best roll out their zero waste efforts nationally and that all of their stores would be zero-waste by the end of 2020. He closed by acknowledging that the experiment might not work upon implementation (or be universally liked for that matter), but that it was time to make their business have less of a negative impact on the environment.

“A commitment to reuse will wreak havoc on every aspect of our pilot cafe’s operations,” Meehan wrote in the blog post. “We expect to lose some business. We might fail. We know some of our guests won’t like it—and we’re prepared for that. But the time has come to step up and do difficult things. It’s our responsibility to the next generation to change our behavior. It’s all hands on deck.”

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