Business

Fears of coronavirus contamination prompt coffee chains to temporarily ban reusable mugs

Starbucks, The Second Cup and Tim Hortons are temporarily forbidding customers from bringing their own reusable mugs because of fears that they could help spread the coronavirus.

Starbucks says it will step up store cleaning and cancel big meetings and business travel

Stores got the order to stop using reusable cups on Wednesday and by Thursday morning signs such as this one were visible in stores advising consumers of the move. (Pete Evans/CBC)

Starbucks, The Second Cup and Tim Hortons are temporarily forbidding customers from bringing their own reusable mugs because of fears that they could help spread the coronavirus.

Starbucks said in a release on Wednesday that it is instituting a number of new policies to handle the virus that has so far infected almost 100,000 people around the world and killed more than 2,000.

Among the new policies is a temporary halt to the reusable mugs that the chain has been encouraging customers to use to try to mitigate the environmental damage of disposable ones. The policy includes a temporary end to the practice of giving a customer a reusable mug to use if they choose to stay in store.

"We are pausing the use of personal cups and 'for here' ware in our stores," an open letter from the Seattle-based chain's executive vice-president Rossann Williams said.

Starbucks has more than 1,400 locations across Canada, and the policy will be in place at them.

The chain has a policy of offering a 10-cent discount to any customers who bring in their own mug. The chain says it will still honour that discount, but the customer will just be given a disposable mug instead. The chain did not offer any details as to how long the policy would be in place.

The chain also says it will be stepping up its cleaning and sanitizing in all its stores and has cancelled all large-scale meetings between employees until the end of March. It has also cancelled all business-related travel for the foreseeable future. 

Tim Hortons is taking a similar approach, saying in a statement Friday morning that it will also take a "pause" on using reusable cups at its stores.

That policy throws a wrench into the chain's plans to revamp its Roll Up The Rim promotion. This year it was planning to give away 1.8 million reusable cups during the program, in response to criticism about the number of disposable cups it normally uses for it.

"The guest will be provided their beverage in a recyclable paper cup," the company said.

Second Cup is also taking action.

The coffee chain will also honour its 20-cent discount for customers who bring a reusable mug. But unlike Starbucks, Second Cup will still allow customers to use ceramic mugs for in-store use, the company said in a statement.

"All ceramic mugs are washed in high-pressure sanitizers," it said, and the company has reminded staff to monitor the machine's temperature and wash their hands prior to unloading dishes.

Second Cup has taken other measures over the past month, including increasing the number of times its cafes are cleaned each day and offering additional sanitizing supplies for baristas and customers.

With files from The Canadian Press

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