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Brief Published: 28 Jan 2020

Blue Bottle to Go Zero Waste by the End of 2020

Blue Bottle

By the end of 2020, Californian specialist-coffee chain Blue Bottle plans to eliminate all single-use products in its cafés and make every US location zero waste. It’s a bold move, and one the company anticipates may alienate convenience-coddled customers.

Blue Bottle’s zero-waste programme will launch in the San Francisco Bay Area, where chief executive Bryan Meehan says: “we expect to lose some business […] we know some of our guests won’t like it.” Instead of single-use cups, customers purchasing a takeaway coffee must bring their own mug or place a $5 deposit on a reusable branded mug. Whole-bean coffee will be sold in bulk, rather than single-use bags, and grab-and-go food items will be packaged in reusable containers (they are currently wrapped in plastic).

Blue Bottle’s reusable cups will replace its current paper straws and sugarcane-paper cups. Although these are compostable, US facilities currently processing sugarcane are limited in availability, meaning the company still goes through 12 million single-use cups annually, which typically end up in landfills. Echoing Blue Bottle’s zero-waste goal, the café’s partial owner Nestlé aims to become carbon neutral by 2025. 

As we note in Catering to Convenience, part of our Spotlight Trend Packaging Futures 19/20, cafés are experimenting with low-waste alternatives to traditional cups, but have struggled to nudge consumers away from their disposable habits. Given Blue Bottle’s international presence (it operates several cafés in Japan and Korea), the decision to aim for zero waste is a statement that should incite the industry to take action.

For more on sustainable packaging, see Beverage Giants Launch Fully Recyclable Plastic Bottles, Pizza Hut Reinvents the Pizza Box and Loop: Zero-Waste Packaging Platform. For more on eco-conscious dining, see Sustainable Restaurants.