Starbucks' reusable coffee cup trial, running over the course of a month, will offer consumers "cup check-in" areas, allowing them to drop-off their reusable containers

Starbucks reusable coffee cups at Gatwick Airport

Starbucks reusable coffee cup drop-off points have been placed in five locations across Gatwick Airport's south terminal (Credit: Starbucks)

Starbucks has launched a reusable coffee cup trial at London’s Gatwick Airport.

Working alongside environmental campaign group Hubbub, Starbucks has partnered with Gatwick – the UK’s second largest airport – to trial the cups, which can be dropped off at five different points within its south terminal.

The one-month trial, beginning this week, aims to offer a new approach to reuse, helping customers reduce disposable cup usage within closed environments such as travel hubs.

reusable coffee cup starbucks
Starbucks’ reusable coffee cup trial at Gatwick Airport will last over the course of a one month (Credit: Gatwick Airport)

Rachel Thompson, sustainability lead at Gatwick Airport, said: “There is strong public support for measures to reduce waste and we are delighted to support one of our retailers with an innovation that can help travellers do that.

“We are looking forward to seeing how the trial goes and what we can learn to improve the solution.

“This trial fits well with Gatwick’s own circular economy ethos, which sees us utilise as many recovered resources as possible from within the airport estate.

“By redesigning and investing in new waste collection and sorting facilities, and also in training to raise awareness about our journey toward zero waste, we have so far managed to hit a waste recycling and reuse rate of 70% this year.

“This includes all empty coffee cups and plastics and we also send zero waste to landfill.”


How will Starbucks’ reusable coffee cup trial at Gatwick work?

Customers will be offered a free reusable cup at the Starbucks store to keep hold of it during their time at the airport.

Before boarding the plane, cups can be returned to one of the five “cup check-in” points located around the terminal, including at the Starbucks store.

The items will then be collected by Gatwick’s waste management team, where they will be washed and sterilised, ready for return and reuse.

Customers will still be able to use the disposable cup for their coffee, but will incur the 5p paper cup charge commonly found at the coffee company’s other facilities across the UK.

reusable coffee cup starbucks
Starbucks introduced its 5p charge on paper cups in July 2018 (Credit: Starbucks)

Jaz Rabadia MBE, UK senior manager of energy and sustainability at Starbucks, said: “The purpose of working with Hubbub and Gatwick is to help create a new culture of reuse on-the-go by giving customers the option of a reusable cup instead of paper for free.

“We are optimistic that the ‘cup check-in’ points around the airport will provide enough places for customers to return their cups on the way to their gate, but also recognise this might not work for everyone.

“Our goal is to save 7,000 disposable cups over the course of the month to find out the best ways to drive reuse where it is typically harder to do so – such as airports.”


Starbucks reusable coffee cup aims to change customer culture

The ambition behind the trial is to create a new culture of on-the-go reuse and explore how customers respond to dropping their cups off to be washed and used again.

The results will give a unique insight into the challenges of changing behaviour at a busy international airport.

Hubbub and Starbucks will openly share the results from the trial as part of the continuing ambition to encourage a greater take-up of reusable cups.

Hubbub CEO and co-founder Trewin Restorick said: “We know that people care about waste, but it’s often hard to ‘do the right thing’ when travelling.

“We want to find out whether people will get on board with reusing cups, if we make it easy and convenient.

“The airport is the ideal environment to trial a reusable cup scheme, as it is a closed loop environment and has the potential to reduce large volumes of paper cup waste.

“What we learn here will provide valuable insight into how to deploy a reusable trial in not only other airports, but many other environments.”