Are Starbucks Cups BPA Free?

Rushing towards your office or class early in the morning or having a small gathering of friends or family, one common thing in your hand is a Starbuck coffee cup. It gives an on-the-go instant boost to our body. It doesn’t matter if you living in a small or big city, you will find a Starbucks outlet on every corner of the road. That’s how much popular they have become. As per National Coffee Association, on average an American drinks 3 cups of coffee per day, that’s over 180 billion cups each year altogether! Nevertheless, a majority portion of outdoor coffee drinking happens from Starbucks.

Starbucks uses plastic made one-time use only cups to serve these coffees all around the globe. As we know plastic often contains BPA, which is undoubtedly harmful to the human body. Ever wondered if your cup of Starbucks coffee cup which you are seeping coffee contains BPA too? Are they safe to use? Well, let’s find out why or why not!

Key Takeaways

  • BPA is a truncation for Bisphenol-A, which is an industrial chemical broadly utilized to make certain plastics and epoxy resins.
  • Starbuck Cups fall under the type 2 category plastics which are likely free of BPA or any other harmful substance for the human body.
  • Starbucks is and already has taken various sustainable initiatives to reduce its wastage to 50% by 2030. They are coming up with ideas like personal mugs and returnable cups with a minimal deposit.
  • Every plastic that we use can be categorized into 7 types. Of them, Starbucks Cups fall under category 2 which is likely to be BPA-free.

What Is BPA and Why Should You Avoid It?

What is bpa and why should you avoid it

BPA is a truncation for Bisphenol-A(C15H16O2), which is an industrial chemical broadly utilized to make certain plastics and epoxy resins. It has been used since the 1960s for storing beverages and food. Moreover, BPA has been utilized to coat the inner parts of bottle tops and nourishment cans. It has also been seen as a dental sealant or composite.

Frequent exposure to Bisphenol-A or BPA causes numerous side effects and has a strong potential of hampering the human brain. Which can affect their behavior, especially the children who are more vulnerable to it. Researchers have found a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease such as a weakened heart.  It has a further influence on infertility and can cause excessive weight gain.

Are Starbucks Cups BPA-Free?

Starbucks Coffee Cups are made of paper but a thin layer of plastic is put to preserve the coffee in its hot or cold format as long as possible. With an iconic company green logo, printed on millions of cups and recognized all around the world. The thin layer of plastic is Polyethylene and it is mostly used in single-use cups and bottles like Starbucks.

Starbucks Coffee Cups are BPA-free, which means they do not contain Bisphenol-A. As mentioned earlier, these cups are made of paper but using only paper may cause leakage or make the cups damage prone after pouring the hot or cold liquid coffee. Thus a thin layer of polyethylene is set.  Polyethylene is a synthetic polymer made from monomers of the aromatic hydrocarbon styrene. And these don’t contain any traceable amount of BPA. Though storing the cups in a plastic bag that contains BPA may lead to contamination in the BPA-free cups.

How Can I Know If Starbucks Cups Are BPA-Free?

You can easily identify the plastic in question if they contain BPA or not. 7 types of plastic are categorized as per their field of use. Each of the plastic types is improvised with ingredients as per the product’s requirement and are easily identifiable by the plastic type number mentioned in bold letters on the plastic products, ranging from “1” to “7”. And from that chart, Starbucks cups fall under the type 2 category of plastics.

Type 2 Category Plastics: Hope

Category plastics
Name of the CategoryHDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
Used InHousehold cleaner, Shampoo Bottle, Milk Jugs, Yogurt Tubs
StatusTransmits no known chemical into the food
Recycled to MakeDetergents bottles, fencing, floor tiles, pens

If you look closely at the Starbucks cups, then you will notice the number 2 mentioned in a tringle-like shape, and the abbreviation HDPE is written under it. These type of plastics usually doesn’t contain BPA and are most likely used for direct food packaging.

Whereas, BPA otherly known as Bisphenol-A falls under category 7 of the plastic classification chart. These categorized plastics are referred to as Other (Miscellaneous) and usually are heavy plastic containers.

Type 7 Category Plastics: Other

Category plastics
Name of the CategoryOther (Miscellaneous)
Used In3/5 gallon water jugs, nylon, some food containers
StatusContains Bisphenol A, which has been linked to various disease
Recycled to MakeCustom made products

So it is clear that in terms of the ingredients used, Starbucks Cups are BPA Free.

Moving Towards Sustainability

Since its inception in 1971, Starbucks has come a long way in its coffee presentation. As of today, the majority of cups they use are made of reusable paper cups within a layer of Polyethylene for a better hold. But they have taken the initiative to reduce the waste by 50% under their 2030 sustainability goal. Though their paper cups are sort of reusable, disposable, and recyclable they often end up in landfills and cause a great amount of non-recycled waste in the process. Some of the sustain-oriented initiatives are as below:

Moving towards sustainability

Borrow-A-Cup Program

Starbucks is proposing a widespread borrow-a-cup program where consumers pay a deposit for a sturdy cup that they may take with them and return after use to phase out disposables. In this program, customers were asked to pay a $1 deposit for the test and return the cup to a smart bin inside the store to get their money back. Customers received incentives for utilizing the cup as well.

Under these programs, coffee cups will be much more sustainable foaming technology that uses up to 70% less plastic than conventional reusable cups while producing a robust and durable wall structure. Additionally, this distinctive wall design insulates hot and cold liquids, allowing it to be utilized for both hot and cold beverages.

Strawless Lid Recyclable Cups

Starbucks created, developed, and produced its strawless lid which will be used for all iced coffee, tea, espresso, and Starbucks Refreshers beverages. The lid has about nine percent less plastic than the flat lid and straw that have traditionally been used for iced beverages and was designed after the lid that customers are familiar with from Starbucks hot drinks.

Starbucks is making progress toward fulfilling its promise to phase out plastic straws globally. Through strawless lids and paper straw substitutes, Starbucks Korea became the brand’s first market to do away with straws in 2018. Every other country that houses Starbucks service is also gradually facilitating their single-used one-time cups with these Straw lid cups.

Tips For Minimizing BPA Exposure

Though the world is slowly but steadily moving towards more environmentally sustainable products plastic-based lethal ingredients which can cause harm to our health along with the environment is imminent. Thus there are a few tips to minimize BPA exposure as low as possible:

Limit Using Packages That Aren’t Labeled BPA-Free

Try to eat mostly fresh food rather than canned or preserved using plastic package food. Also if needs to use plastic-based food packaging then make sure to use 2,4,5 type of labeled plastic packaged food. Also, try to separate them from normal BPA-added packaging to prevent contamination.

Drink From Glass Bottles

Using glass bottles or containers is way too safe in comparison with plastic-made packaging. They are likely to hold very less or no BPA and similar hazardous ingredients. Starbucks has recycled glass mugs and cups of different sizes and colors. You can simply buy them with drinks and can reuse them afterward.

Never Microwave Plastic

Don’t microwave plastic food containers if they are not microwave friendly. In a microwave, it’s not only the food that gets hot, but it plastic container gets also warm. Causing the particles the separate and contaminate the food too. If your plastic container is BPA free then after heating in the microwave it may become contaminated in touch with particles left by previously heated BPA-added plastic.


1. Why Starbucks cups are not fully recyclable?

Starbucks cups are made of recyclable paper but it is a thin layer of Polyethylene inside it to prevent the cups get damaged from frequent use of hot or cold liquid coffee and other beverages.

2. Can you absorb BPA through the skin?

BPA is a known endocrine disruptor. Frequent use of BPA-added plastics can cause the BPA to migrate onto the skin and be absorbed when handling these papers.

3. Who is most at risk for BPA?

Infants and young children are most vulnerable to BPA risk. Their bodies are still developing and lack the capability of eliminating harmful substances from their body themselves.

4. What is the highest source of BPA?

Packaged foods contain the most amount of BPA if the plastic container was made of BPA-added graded plastics. Metal food containers can also spread BPA through their thin line of resins which are made of BPA.

Final Thoughts

The Starbucks reusable cups which we’ve come to adore are not harmful. They are very convenient for on-the-go use.  They don’t contain BPA, a dangerous industrial chemical that should be avoided at all costs! But the Starbucks cups’ claims of being recyclable may need to be reconsidered because the plastic liner prevents them from being as easily composted. But it is still a relief to know that they are at least BPA-free.

Though if you don’t like to sip your coffee from these popular one-time-use cups, it is concluded that they don’t do any measure of harm to the human body. But at the same time, it is high time should opt for more eco-friendly options to make our environment sustainable for much longer.


Todd Smith is a trained ecologist with five years of experience in environmental conservation and sustainability. He has a deep passion for promoting sustainable practices and has developed a thorough understanding of the natural world and its complex interconnections.

Leave a Reply