Starbucks has just introduced a new plastic reusable cup that they are selling for a buck. That's cheap enough that people are not going to worry about it if they lose it, and it pays for itself very quickly with the 10 cent discount they offer to people who bring their own cup. It will likely be a hit; According to the LA Times,
Starbucks tested its eco-friendly effort in 600 Pacific Northwest stores starting in October. In November, the region saw a 26% boost in reusable cup usage compared to the same month in 2011.
But there is another side to this story. In 2008 Starbucks set an ambitious goal of selling 25% of their coffee in reusable cups by 2015 and were not even getting close, so they changed the goal: from 25% reusable cups to 5% in personal tumblers. They dropped the refillable cups goal altogether. Basically, they have shifted the responsibility from something they do, like provide reusable cups, to something you do, which is buy a refillable cup, clean it and carry it around.
Why have they done this? In their sustainability report they write:
While we have seen a more than 55 percent increase in personal tumbler use over the past three years, we have experienced challenges in consistently executing and tracking our “for here” serveware use in stores around the world. Because of these challenges and the fact the majority of beverages are consumed outside of our stores, we are resetting our goal to focus on increasing the use of personal tumblers. Our new goal is to serve 5 percent of all beverages made in our stores in personal tumblers.
Reusable cups are used in a sit-down restaurant environment, while Starbucks appears to be focusing on takeout and drive-through. They don't even want to have a target for reusable cups anymore because that's more work and expense for them. Their corporate goals just don't mesh with their environmental ones anymore, so guess which gets changed. They are shifting the responsibility from themselves to the consumer, who has to buy and carry the thing. What a surprise.