What started as a small trend among neighborhood cafes to reduce waste is gaining support from some big names in the city’s food and coffee world. Celebrated chef Dominique Crenn, owner of the three-star Michelin restaurant Atelier Crenn, is opening a San Francisco cafe next year that will have no to-go bags or disposable coffee cups and will use no plastic. Customers who plan to sip and go at Boutique Crenn will be encouraged to bring their own coffee cups, says spokeswoman Kate Bittman.
On a bigger scale, the Blue Bottle coffeehouse chain, which goes through about 15,000 to-go cups a month at its 70 U.S. locations, says it wants to “show our guests and the world that we can eliminate disposable cups.”
Blue Bottle is starting small with plans to stop using paper cups at two of its San Francisco area branches in 2020, as part of a pledge to go “zero waste” by the end of next year. Coffee to-go customers will have to bring their own mug or pay a deposit for a reusable cup, which they can keep or return for a refund. The deposit fee will likely be between $3 and $5, the company said.
Blue Bottle’s pilot program will help guide the company on how to expand the idea nationwide, CEO Bryan Meehan said in a statement. “We expect to lose some business,” he said. “We know some of our guests won’t like it — and we’re prepared for that.”
Larger coffee and fast-food chains around the U.S. are feeling a sense of urgency to be more environmentally friendly, and will no doubt be watching, said Bridget Croke, of New York-based recycling investment firm Closed Loop Partners, which is working with Starbucks and McDonald’s to develop an eco-friendly alternative to the disposable coffee cup.
Despite the name, today’s conventional paper cups for hot drinks aren’t made solely from paper. They also have plastic linings that prevent leakage but make them hard to recycle, Croke said. She says it’s unlikely large national chains will banish disposable cups, in the immediate term, or persuade all customers to bring mugs, so they’re looking for other solutions. Starbucks and McDonald’s chipped in $10 million to a partnership with Closed Loop to develop the “single-use cup of the future” that is recyclable and compostable.