Coronavirus concerns temporarily stop Starbucks' reusable cup program

The Seattle-based coffee chain says it has "increased cleaning and sanitizing for all company-operated stores to help prevent the spread of all germs."
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/ Source: TODAY

In an effort to help stop the spread of coronavirus, coffee giant Starbucks announced baristas will no longer be making drinks in customer-provided mugs and tumblers. The temporary measure was announced Wednesday and goes into effect immediately at U.S. and Canadian stores.

Usually, environmentally conscious coffee lovers receive a 10-cent discount off any beverage if they bring in their own drinking vessel. Customers may also get the discount if they order a drink “for here” in store-provided ceramic mugs. Though the chain still offers plastic and paper to-go cups, it has announced several sustainability measures set to take place gradually over the coming years.

In a statement posted Wednesday, Rossann Williams, executive vice president of Starbucks' business in the U.S. and Canada, said that, like the rest of the world, the Seattle-based coffee chain has been closely monitoring the outbreak and is enacting measures it has deemed necessary to protect the "health and well-being" of its employees and customers.

"Although the situation remains fluid, our U.S. and international markets have gleaned learnings from our leadership team and partners in China who were first faced with this epidemic," Williams stated. "As North America began experiencing heightened concerns, we quickly initiated a regular cadence of communications with our store partners to ensure they have the support they need."

So far, the chain says its U.S. and Canadian stores have enacted several measures including increased cleaning and sanitizing of all locations, halting the use of customer-provided cups and restricting its employees' domestic and international travel plans through March 31.

“We will continue to stay close to our partners and local health officials, and we are optimistic this will be a temporary situation,” Williams said. “Our hope — as always — is that after this is over partners will look back and say, ‘I can’t believe I work for a company that cared so much for me, my family and my community.’”

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment when asked how long it will be suspending the use of personal mugs and tumblers in its stores. However, customers who bring in their own tumbler and show it to a barista will still be able to receive the 10-cent discount for now.

Starbucks, which operates over 15,000 locations in the U.S., says it has been giving discounts to customers who bring in their own cups since 1985.