Sector News

Starbucks and Hubbub launch reusable packaging fund as COVID-19 diminishes consumer appetite

May 15, 2022
Energy & Chemical Value Chain

Starbucks and Hubbub have launched a £1 million (US$1.22 million) “Bring It Back Fund” to increase the uptake of reusable packaging in the F&B industry. The funding will go toward innovative ideas that make it easier for customers to use alternatives to single-use packaging by supporting pilot projects that help shift consumption habits.

Trewin Restorick, founder of Hubbub, tells PackagingInsights: “Our polling indicates that consumers have not returned to using reusable cups and cutlery. Over one in five (21.9%) state that they are worried about catching COVID-19 while 12.6% say they have gotten out of the habit of using reusable cups since COVID-19 arrived.”

The environmental group says successful applicants to the fund could promote behavioral change, undertake new research, expand an existing approach or try something completely new, including tech fixes. Up to five projects will each receive grants of between £150,000-£300,000 (US$183,000-US$366,000) for a year. Applications opened on May 11, 2022, and will close on June 24, 2022.

Development of the Bring It Back Fund has been informed by Starbucks and Hubbub’s ongoing UK initiatives to drive the uptake of reuse, including the “Cup, Cup and Away” campaign at Gatwick Airport and “Grab Your Cup” in Manchester, UK.

Reusability barriers
A new poll commissioned by Hubbub identified some of the most common barriers to reuse, including misconceptions that it might not be clean or hygienic (38%), might cost more (31%) or is inconvenient to carry or store (28%). Separate polling by Hubbub from 2019 showed over a third of people (36%) don’t use a reusable simply because they forget their cup.

Furthermore, there are pandemic-related hygiene concerns despite reassurance from scientists across the world that reusable containers do not increase the chance of virus transmission and are safe to use.

Attitudes toward plastics
Hubbub’s poll also revealed that there is a “clear public appetite” to cut down on single-use plastics, with 41% of respondents stating they are now more worried about how much single-use plastic is used than they were pre-COVID-19.

Restorick also notes that 67% of respondents expressed environmental concerns and are worried about the impact of single-use F&B packaging on the environment.

Furthermore, 75% of respondents agree more needs to be done to make it easier to recycle single-use packaging, with 64% being open to borrowing a reusable cup for a takeaway drink from a café or bar and then returning it. The latter is something that Starbucks is trialing in London, Paris and Geneva this year.

Raising public concern
Hubbub says the fund’s launch is timely since the amount of single-use plastics has grown significantly as a result of COVID-19, and public concern is not at the same high level as it was immediately after David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series.

The fund will provide new impetus in tackling this significant environmental challenge by investing in new solutions designed to make it as convenient as possible for people to shift to reusable packaging.

Successful projects will be selected by a grant panel, consisting of independent experts on the circular economy, environmentally sustainable packaging and behavior change, as well as senior Starbucks representatives.

By Natalie Schwertheim


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