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Starbucks, Second Cup halt use of reusable cups amid novel coronavirus outbreak


Two major coffee chains have stopped serving beverages in reusable cups brought by customers amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Starbucks and The Second Cup Ltd. say they are temporarily halting the environmentally friendly measure, but will continue to honour associated discounts.

"First and foremost, the health and well-being of our partners and customers remains top of mind and our highest priority, and we will continue to act thoughtfully and courageously despite the disruption and uncertainty COVID-19 brings to our daily lives," wrote Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice-president and president of U.S. company-operated business and Canada, in an open letter published on the company's website Wednesday.

The global spread of coronavirus caused global stock markets to fall, created worries in the Canadian tourism industry, and prompted other corporate concerns and changes.

The letter announced a slew of "precautionary steps" the company is taking in response to the outbreak.

That includes pausing personal cup use and serving drinks in in-store mugs. The company will continue to honour a 10-cent discount for customers who bring their cup or ask for a company mug to use in store.

The coffee chain is also ramping up regular cleaning practices across all stores, modifying or postponing large meetings and providing info to employees on how to respond to suspected cases of the virus. It has also restricted business-related air travel through to March 31.

Second Cup also temporarily halted personal cup use as of Thursday, the company said.

The coffee chain will also honour its 20-cent discount for customers who bring a reusable mug.

Second Cup, however, will continue to pour drinks into 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.

Other coffee purveyors — McDonald's Canada, Tim Hortons, Balzac's Coffee Roasters, Aroma Espresso Bar and Timothy's World Coffee — did not respond to a request for comment.

Restaurants Canada, a national association that represents the foodservice industry, "is closely monitoring developments" and conducted a survey among its members last month to see how they are responding to the coronavirus outbreak, the organization said in a statement. The survey received 125 responses representing 6,800 locations.

Members have made more hand sanitizers available, reminded staff to stay home if they are sick and monitored information from Canadian health authorities among other measures.

Restaurants Canada said it does not have data on how these businesses have changed their approach to sustainability initiatives and waste generation during the outbreak.

"Restaurant operators know that environmental sustainability is important to their guests, but accessibility, and health and safety, are just as important. They're always working on ways to balance those needs."

It's the latest corporate impact from the global spread of COVID-19, which caused global stock markets to fall and has created worries in the Canadian tourism industry.

–– Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press. With files from Salmaan Farooqui