To Prevent Coronavirus Spread, Starbucks Bans Reusable Cups

In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the use of reusable cups has been temporarily banned by Starbucks at branches in the United Kingdom.

A discount of 25pence would still be available for consumers who bring in reusable cups with them, but the coffee chain would only give out its coffee in paper cups, the company said.

Similar measures have been taken by Great Western Railway and LNER.

Currently, containing the spread of the virus should be a “greater priority” than maintaining environmental norms, said a hygiene expert.

Reports suggested that the decision to temporarily ban reusable cups was taken internally by Starbucks instead of acting on any advice of from health officials.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are pausing the use of personal cups or tumblers in our stores across the UK. However, we will continue to honour our 25p discount for anyone who brings in a personal cup,” said the coffee chain’s Europe spokesman, Robert Lynch.

The 5p charge for customers asking to use a paper cup is also being suspended by Starbucks, he said.

“Increased cleaning measures” for all in-store crockery such as ceramic mugs and plates was also being introduced by the coffee chain – which was the first company which started offering a discount to customers who brought in reusable cups with them to its stores in 1998, Lynch added.

Similar measures have recently been introduced by Starbucks in the United States.

After the outbreak of the coronavirus in January, the coffee chain had closed down about half of its almost 4,300 outlets in China in its efforts to prevent the spreading o of the coronavirus which causes a disease called Covid-19.

It had stopped accepting refillable cups on its trains “to help prevent possible contamination from handling cups and lids”, said the UK train operator LNER.

The use of reusable cups on its trains had been banned temporarily for “three or four days” as part of “sensible precautions” to protect customers and staff, said While Great Western Railway (GWR). However a spokesman said that the train company “reverted” to its normal policy last Tuesday. “A couple of comments” from consumers seeking an explanation from the train company about the ban had been received by the company, he said.

The move was “absolutely absurd” as trains were a “germ hot spot”, said one GWR passenger.

Its “message is clear” – that “simple hand-washing with soap for 20 seconds” was the most effective way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, said Public Health England when asked if people should stop using reusable cups.

According to a government report published in 2018, every year in the UK, at least 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away.

At this time of crisis, hygiene should take a “greater priority” compared to conforming to environmental concerns even while controlling the spread of the virus was possible, said Prof Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“We don’t know how serious [the virus] is, we are in a completely unknown phase of this, and I think in terms of preventing the spread, for the next three or four weeks then it should take a greater priority than an environmental concerns,” she said.

(Adapted from


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