Every year in the UK we get through almost 3 billion coffee cups. Despite it being possible to recycle these cups when taken to the correct recycling facilities, only 4% get recycled due to the lack of on the go recycling infrastructure to collect them, and a lack of awareness that they need their own recycling collection. That is, until now! 

Since 2018, Starbucks has voluntarily trialled a 5p charge on drinks bought in paper cups across its UK stores, to financially encourage customers to switch to reusables. Starbucks donates all of these 5ps to Hubbub to run practical and positive campaigns that reduce plastic waste and pollution, and create a better environment for all.   

What are we doing with the 5p Cup Funds?

We’re going back to basics – we’re designing positive campaigns that reduce waste and plastic pollution, increase the use of reusables, and increase recycling of on the go packaging. We’re starting with coffee cups and will amplify our impact to other on the go packaging. Here’s a flavour of what this looks like:

1) Switching to reuse 

We're exploring ways to increase the use of reusable cups. We aim to get from 5% to 10% of all hot drinks sold at Starbucks, with people reusing their cup at least 20 times each. 

  • At Gatwick we’ve run a trial to lend people reusable cups, making it easy for them to make the switch and cut plastic waste. This approach could eventually be extended to all airports.  
  • We’re trialling a city-wide campaign that will encourage people to use their reusable, helping them to save money and cut plastic waste.

Switch to a reusable cup 

2) Increasing recycling of cups and on the go packaging

#5pCupFunds are making it as easy as possible for people to recycle coffee cups and other valuable packaging when on the go: 

recycle on the go wherever you are 

3) Reducing plastic waste and pollution

#5pCupFunds are helping to reduce litter and create greener, healthier cities. 

  • A Plastic Fishing Tour has taken Plastic Fishing trips to Bristol, Manchester, Scotland and Birmingham, helping people to fish plastics from local waterways in a boat made from 99% recycled plastic.  One Plastic Fishing boat has been given to Birmingham, helping the local community keep the canals free of plastic litter. 
  • In London we gave out 10,000 ‘Give it a Grow’ packs helping people create their own green space, bringing nature nearer. 

The difference made

We worked with Starbucks to trial a 5p charge and measure whether it encourages people to switch to reusables. During the trial across 35 stores, reusable cup use with hot drinks increased from 2.2% to 5.8%.

download the trial report (PDF) 

Over a year on from the introduction of the 5p cup charge, the number of customers bringing their own cup into Starbucks has tripled, saving more than 3 million cups from being used. Over 1 million cups have been recycled through the Leeds By Example campaign which has now been rolled out to two further cities Edinburgh and Swansea. In September 2018 The Cup Fund funded 12 large scale cup recycling projects across the UK which are projected to recycle 35 million cups.

We've also run a pioneering reuse trial in Gatwick, and built two plastic fishing boats which have helped to clean up rivers and canals in five locations across the UK.