The Real Reason You're Still Seeing Starbucks Holiday Cups

No, Starbucks did not have a master plan that involved reusing the holiday cups for a Valentine's Day theme. Rather, the coffee chain needed to revive the red cups because it is suffering a shortage of cups, according to The Wall Street Journal. Naturally, the paper cup shortage extends across the market and is not only affecting Starbucks. This is due to both a disruption in the supply chain that flows from Chinese disposable cup factories to food companies and paper mills in the U.S. being short staffed. Another issue related to the shortage is, even if companies are able to secure cups, acquiring lids that match can be difficult.

According to the Daily Mail, Starbucks' cup shortage started in November 2021, as restaurants and cafes were beginning to run out of takeaway products. One of the main reasons behind the paper cup shortage is one you're likely familiar with: Namely, shared CNBC, the pandemic has prompted more people to turn to takeaway containers, creating a sudden and prolonged surge in demand. "It's more than just food. It's paper products, it's plastics, it's just everything — the packaging for the products that we get," Craig Dunaway, the president of Penn Station East Coast Subs, explained to the outlet.

A secondary reason for the shortage is the winter storm that shut down Texas in early 2021, temporarily closing factories that make the coating inside your paper coffee cup.

If you hate the holiday cups, Starbucks has a solution

The drive people have to continue to use onetime disposable containers, even in the face of a shortage, shows this situation will likely last for a while. Perhaps it will inspire more companies to find sustainable alternatives like Panera Bread, which pivoted to a compostable thermal wrap for its food (via CNBC). Only time will tell if Starbucks follows suit once its reserve of holiday cups runs out. 

Despite the hysteria surrounding the paper cup shortage and the suggestion that people go without their daily dose of to-go caffeine, there is a simple solution already offered by Starbucks: bring your own cup. Since June, the company has reversed its policy of not allowing people to bring their own cups into stores. (The BYOC policy had been suspended in 2020 due to the pandemic.) The Daily Mail reports that Starbucks customers get a $0.10 discount on a drink if they bring their own cup, making the move good for the environment and your wallet.