Blue Bottle aims to be a zero-waste company by the end of 2020

The coffee chain is taking 'reduce, reuse, recycle' to another level.

Blue Bottle Coffee opened its first Massachusetts location in Harvard Square.
Blue Bottle may switch entirely to mugs by the end of 2020. –Melissa Habegger Ryan

Blue Bottle CEO Bryan Meehan announced Monday that the coffee chain will be zero waste by the end of 2020, meaning at least 90 percent of the company’s waste will be diverted from landfills.

The coffee chain, which launched in Oakland, Calif., in 2002, has five locations in the Boston and Cambridge area, including a brand new Newbury Street outpost that opened Saturday. Blue Bottle isn’t new to championing thoughtful consumption. The company uses compostable sugarcane-paper cups and, earlier this year, introduced paper straws to all of its U.S. cafés.

“We still go through on average 15,000 disposable single-use cups per cafe per month in the U.S. alone, which adds up to 12 million cups per year,” Meehan said in a statement. “We want to show our guests and the world that we can eliminate disposable cups as we serve our delicious coffee.”

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Blue Bottle’s first step in achieving zero waste will start as a pilot program in San Francisco. Instead of serving coffee in disposable, single-use cups, the coffee shops will encourage customers to bring their own mug or borrow the shops’ mugs with a deposit. The pilot program, which will determine how Blue Bottle will proceed nationwide, also includes selling grab-and-go meals in reusable containers, and whole bean coffees in bulk instead of the single-use bags it currently uses.

In his announcement, Meehan acknowledged that it’s an “experiment that may not work, that may cost us money, and that may make your life a little more complicated.” But it’s also in line with recent environmental pledges from Nestlé, which acquired a 68 percent stake in Blue Bottle in 2017. Nestlé vowed to make 100 percent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and to become completely carbon neutral by 2050.

A timeline has not been set for when Blue Bottle’s Boston locations will implement the pilot program. But on Dec. 21, the recently opened Newbury Street location will host a Community Day, donating all profits from its sales to Conservation International, a non-profit environmental organization and Blue Bottle’s sustainability partner.

“Recycling is important, but the focus needs to be on the other two Rs: reduce and reuse,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, in Meehan’s announcement. “Efforts like the one Blue Bottle is piloting are really exciting to me because of how they engage consumers directly with being part of the solution. Yes, we need companies to make big changes, but we need consumers to change their behaviors too.”

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Local consumers don’t have to wait for the pilot program to start changing their behavior. Start bringing your own mug to one of Blue Bottle’s five Boston-area locations — no deposit required:

40 Bow St., Cambridge

88 Ames St., Suite R120, Cambridge

163 Newbury St., Boston

100 Federal St., Suite K200, Boston

800 Boylston St., Suite 25, Boston