Closing the loop on coffee cups

Closing the loop on coffee cups

“It is about more than recycling; we work at the top of the value chain through designing for re-use.” says Safia Qureshi, Founder of the London-based start-up CupClub, a new returnable packaging service for drinks, designed for both hot and cold drinks.

CupClub has been put together from the ground up as a complete circular business solution, ideal for cafes, canteens, restaurants, self serve coffee/tea points and vending machines in buildings and on the high-street. For the consumer, it is a convenient option that allows the customer to choose a high quality returnable cup in preference to a disposal one. For the retailer or operator, it is a reliable, cost-comparative system for the supply of cups to their outlets. For everyone, it is an elegant, common sense solution to the huge problem of single-use plastics in our packaging supply chains.

Essentially, CupClub is a tailored end-to-end service for drinks, both hot and cold. The customer takes away a drink, enjoys it on the go and when finished, returns the cup to the nearest conveniently located collection point from where it is collected, washed and returned to the retailer by CupClub.

Designed for scalability

The key to CupClub as a business model is data-driven logistics. In the same way as an Oyster card is tracked around the London transport system, every CupClub product carries a unique RFID code that allows the company to follow its journey from retailer to consumer, through the washing process and back to a retailer. “It is this technology that allows us to build a scalable system,” explains Safia. “It provides the information we need to continue to optimise the performance of our operations.”

The company is working closely with catering companies, facilities management companies, brands and retailers interested in adopting the new system for their internal cafes, canteens, restaurants, self serve and vending machines as well as high street retail sites. Recognising that marketing is crucial to achieving customer support and behaviour change, CupClub expects to get involved with co-creating communications material for its clients, helping them to make the transition successfully.

Retailers will give customers the choice of paying for a disposable cup, or joining CupClub for a one-off fee of £3, payable via the CupClub app. In trials at outlets across the Royal College of Art campus, use of disposable cups was reduced by 47%.

London design, international interest

CupClub’s sturdy, high quality cups are made from polypropylene, and the lids are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), both 100% recyclable. They are designed to be used 132 times before they are taken out of circulation. They are then sent to be repurposed to form new products, in a closed loop circular process. Keen to share the knowledge that has gone into creating this circular economy business, CupClub is planning to publish their first report CupClub : Returnable Packaging Service for drinks  , which is a complete Life Cycle Assessment of their service.

CubClub launched its first commercial roll out on June 25th 2018 with global commercial real estate group Cushman & Wakefield. The group is installing the system in its own on-site cafés and self-serve stations and working with CupClub to offer the service to their wide network of workplaces across their global portfolio. CupClub is also in discussions with leading retail brands and city planners around the world

“As a London-based designer and Architect with a British product, I am so proud to be launching this in my home city,” says Safia. “I’d love to see CupClub adopted right across London one day, like Boris Bikes for drinks!”

Closing the loop on coffee cups


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