Blue Bottle Coffee, the upscale chain that popularized the pour-over coffee cup, plans to make its cafes zero-waste within a year. To do that, it's getting rid of single-use cups at some locations.
Here's how the pilot program will work: Customers will have to bring their own cup or purchase a reusable cup. (Those purchasing drinks to stay will have them served in reusable cups). In addition, Blue Bottle will sell its coffee beans in bulk instead of in bags, and will use reusable containers for food items, it said.
"We expect to lose some business. We might fail. We know some of our guests won't like it—and we're prepared for that," CEO Bryan Meehan wrote in a blog post. "But the time has come to step up and do difficult things. It's our responsibility to the next generation to change our behavior."
The pilot will run at a new location in San Francisco and at an existing cafe in the East Bay, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The company previously made its cups from compostable, bio-based plastic, but that didn't stop them from ending up in landfills.
"We still go through on average 15,000 disposable single-use cups per cafe per month in the U.S, alone, which adds up to 12 million cups per year," Meehan wrote. "We want to show our guests and the world that we can eliminate disposable cups as we serve our delicious coffee."
A number of cities have been implementing bans on some types of single-use packaging as they grapple with a global waste crisis. Berkeley, California, will start charging a 25-cent fee on single-use cups in January; Seattle has banned plastic utensils in restaurants, and dozens of cities have eliminated plastic straws, plastic bags or foam packaging.
Large coffee chains have made incremental changes. Dunkin' is eliminating foam cups and Starbucks is dumping straws starting next year.
Meehan said he hopes that the food conglomerate Nestle, which owns two-thirds of Blue Bottle, will follow its lead and be more aggressive in reducing its footprint. Nestle has pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
"Blue Bottle's commitment is significant because it not only tackles the issue of single-use plastics, it strikes a blow to our throwaway culture as a whole," Greenpeace USA Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges said in a statement.
She continued, "[W]e are not going to recycle our way out of this pollution crisis, and swapping in bioplastic or paper alternatives will only exacerbate other environmental destruction. To truly make a difference for both people and planet, we need more companies to move toward systems of reuse or package-free options as Blue Bottle has."