Innovation That Matters

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Reusable smart cups help London coffee shops recycle


A new subscription service that works with multiple brands, allows customers to return their cups to any participating store.

Using RFID tagging and the IoT, Cup Club allows coffee customers to return their cups to any participating store, regardless of the company in which they made the purchase. A winner of the New Plastics Economy Circular Design Challenge, the new ecosystem provides a product, service and business model. The founder of the company says that the new approach can scale quickly because it does not rely on brand loyalty.

Cup Club works by providing multiple drop off points available across all businesses, making it easy for customers to participate. And the reusable cups make multiple marketing campaigns possible. Retailers subscribe to the service, and Cup Club does all the work of recycling and reusing. The combination of RFID and IoT technology will allow the startup to track individual cups and reward their users for being in the system. Tested in London in 2017 with plans for a city-wide rollout in 2018, the Cup Club team plans to expand the approach to another scourge of environmentalists everywhere – plastic drinks bottles.

With billions of coffee cups and lids discarded each year, and most cup reuse schemes notable only for not working, a number of recent projects are helping find ways to make the entire product supply chain more sustainable. A new cup made from the husk of coffee beans reduces waste at the farm, and a zero-packaging grocery store brings the eco-savings into the home. How could other industries with only tangential interaction with coffee, food and beverages get involved?




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