Fearing They Might Spread the Coronavirus, Starbucks Suspends Use of Reusable Cups

One of the overlooked benefits of single-use items is that they're clean.


On Wednesday, Starbucks Executive Vice President Rossann Williams published an open letter detailing a number of steps the company was taking to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, including a temporary suspension of their use of reusable cups in stores.

"The health and well-being of our partners and customers remains top of mind and our highest priority," said Williams, saying that "we are pausing the use of personal cups and 'for here' ware in our stores.

Customers who arrive with their own, potentially infected coffee cups, or who ask for a reusable "for here" mug will still receive the existing 10 cent discount Starbucks offers. They will, however, have to make do with a single-use cup until this current pandemic dies down.

Williams announced a slew of other measures to combat coronavirus, including stepped-up cleaning and sanitation, postponing large company meetings, and restricting company travel.

"We are optimistic this will be a temporary situation," said Williams in her letter.

The company's announcement highlights one of the often-overlooked benefits of single-use items: they're clean. Once you are done using it, you can throw it away, in a landfill maybe. Reusable items, by contrast, leave open the possibility that contaminants from the last thing or person the item came in contact with will be passed on to the next user.

Already we rely on single-use condoms and surgical gloves to prevent the spread of all sorts of diseases and infections. In the context of a quickly spreading pandemic, single-use cups and straws also have their role to play.

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  1. Is there any evidence of transmission via contact with objects or fomites? It’s my understanding that the CDC maintains this is not a known vector of transmission. Coronavirus is fundamentally a respiratory condition transmitted through droplets at close proximity; i.e., through coughing and sneezing.

    This strikes me as another case of doing something for the sake of doing something.

    1. I suppose theoretically if I’m infected the rim of my coffee cup could contain remnants of droplets that could pass to your hands if you touch my cup (baristas shouldn’t be touching the rim of cups anyway, but whatever) then touch your own face or another cup (handwriting should also be a thing in foodservice) it coudl spread that way

    2. Thanks for teaching me a new word – fomites. We have a couple of fomites that frequent this comment section.

      1. That’s quite an admission.

  2. It is actually not overlooked at all, except by idiots who worship at the cult of environmentalism.


    just saying

  4. Already we rely on single-use condoms

    Are you telling me you’ve never heard of Crystal condoms?

    1. “It accords you to experience the ever reminiscing and romping physical intimacy”!

    2. That’s kinda hot in a really filthy way.

    3. “They can be used up to 1 year”

      I assume your signal to discard it is when your partner gets pregnant due to a small hole that developed around the 300th use?

      1. 300 uses per year? Somebody’s obviously not a libertarian.

  5. When existential threats collide.

    1. What happens when a self-reproducing force collides with a single use object?

      1. People laugh at how suroid you are.

        No, that’s what happens. Other things might happen too though.

  6. Been pointing this out for a while now. You wanna stop all single use plastics? Have fun watching modern healthcare implode…

    1. Not to mention the burden on local utilities for cleaning multiuse products and the environmental toll in water use and cleaning chemicals introduced into the system. But its the thought that counts not the outcomr

  7. The good news for me is that the coffee at the hospital where I work is so vomitous, it’s broken me of my coffee habit—and I say that as someone who was regularly consuming upwards of 800 to 1000 mg of caffeine a day. I have no idea why the coffee here is so revolting. It’s just Wawa coffee, the same stuff that’s served at every other hospital in the area, and it’s perfectly drinkable at those facilities. But this stuff is so vile that it literally had me puking on duty, and that was the end of that. I quit cold turkey—with the assistance of handfuls of Tylenol and Motrin, of course.

    1. Try low acid coffee. I had acid reflux from coffee until I started drinking low acid coffee.

      1. That’s the thing—I don’t suffer from reflux. The swill at this hospital simply tastes revolting.

        1. Find out when the last time was they cleaned the coffee machine and what they used and whether they rinsed it afterwards. You’re probably either drinking water that’s been filtered through some sort of slime mold because it’s never been cleaned or water that’s been mixed with a cleaning solution because they just swish some Ty-D-Bowl around in there and call it clean.

          1. I’ve brought the ruinous flavor of the coffee to the cafeteria management, and they’re as perplexed as I am. They insist that the pots are cleaned regularly, and they use the same prepackaged grounds packets as everywhere else, so it’s not like the recipe varies by employee. It’s truly baffling.

    2. Is the tap water used by the other hospitals in the area from the same source as yours and/or do the other hospitals in the area use some sort of filtration system on the water going into the coffee maker that your hospital doesn’t use (or maintain)?

      1. That’s been my personal theory all along—that it has something to do with the water. Maybe they don’t remove scale from the insides of the pots or something like that. On the other hand, when I use hot water from the same machine to make tea, it tastes just fine. So that doesn’t make sense either.

  8. >>steps the company was taking to prevent the transmission of COVID-19

    finally telling the truth about their terrible coffee would be a start and save paper cups

  9. The lesson is that Starbucks does not have a validated SOP for cleaning the reusable cups they routinely use during flu season.


    1. Yes. In fact, I find it slightly discomforting whenever I see the barista handle a reused cup.

      (However, when I actually get my cup of coffee and sip it I then suffer greater discomfort. Friends don’t ask friends to meet them at Charbucks.)

      1. The only Starbucks coffee I find tolerable is the blond roast and that only in limited quantities. All of the other roasts taste like ash to me. Caribou Coffee is where it’s at—truly delectable stuff—but alas, we don’t have that on the East Coast.

  10. I went to Costco today and got a hot dog and a Mountain Dew. Evidently Costco has decided to switch to paper straws. It fucking sucked. Totally effected the flavor.

    1. But will you cancel your membership and tell them why?

      1. I won’t cancel my membership but I’m gonna bitch to them and not buy anymore pops from them.

  11. single-use condoms

    The only single use item that won’t be banned in San Francisco?

    1. You dumbass, you’ve been wasting condoms. Each condom can be used twice.

      1. I’ll start reusing them when an eco-freak shows me a picture of a turtle with a condom stuck on its head.

      2. I don’t think anyone’s interested in your dietary preferences

      3. Yea just turn them inside out just like underwear

        1. So the jizz from the first use becomes lube for the second?

  12. “The company’s announcement highlights one of the often-overlooked benefits of single-use items: they’re clean.”

    Until somebody with contaminated hands touches it.

    1. Those baristas have graduate degrees in modern post-feminist oppression literature studies! You think they don’t know how to wash their hands?

    2. “Until somebody with contaminated hands touches it.”

      Which is true of the multi-use cups, but they have the added benefit of being ‘infected’ multiple times.

  13. HOW DARE YOU!!!!

  14. One of the overlooked benefits of single-use items is that they’re clean.

    So says someone who has never worked in food service or in a retail place that sells drinks.

    Those re-usable cups? They’re washed in hot water and some pretty strong soap. That plastic cup? Was sitting in a box covered in dust in the back of a storeroom. If you’re lucky there were no visible dead bugs or rat droppings.

    1. Sorry, the ones in our place are in vac-sealed plastic sleeves.

  15. “The health and well-being of our partners and customers remains top of mind and our highest priority,” said Williams, saying that “we are pausing the use of personal cups and ‘for here’ ware in our stores.

    So saving the entire planet doesn’t outweigh the health of a few excess humans? This guy doesn’t sound a damn bit woke to me.

    1. Reusable items achieve two of the green cult’s goals: sustainability and population reduction

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  17. This corona virus created a fear around us. Many of offices instructed their employees to work from home. It is better to stay away and keep save.

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