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WeCare Coffee Cup Ecosystem

Reusable coffee cup ecosystem managed by WeCare that facilitates the provision, return and reuse of coffee cups

Photo of Sylvain Emeric

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Why WeCare:

What we found is that people love the idea of the reusable coffee cups but face several challenges in using them:

  • The cups are large and heavy to carry around;
  • Once we have finished the coffee, we would like to dispose the cup;
  • It's easy to forget the cup at home or in the office and therefore, we end up buying take-away coffees; and
  • Cleaning the cup is a pain point and doesn't encourage a frequent reuse.

Therefore, how might we build on the reusable coffee cups, whilst delivering a great experience and making it economically viable? 

What is WeCare:

Updated 31/8: refined value proposition

WeCare proposes a circular system for coffee drinkers, introducing reusable cups with the convenience of disposable cups:

  1. WeCare provides clean reusable coffee cups to cafes who are part of the WeCare network
  2. Customers get their coffee take-away in the WeCare reusable coffee cup and are able to drop-off the dirty coffee cup in any of our collection points (WeCare enhances the coffee experience through the WeCare app: pre-order and payments)
  3. WeCare orchestrates the collection and cleaning of the dirty reusable coffee cups
  4. WeCare orchestrates the re-distribution of the clean reusable coffee cups to cafes that are part of the WeCare network

Updated 31/8: added video

How would WeCare work: 

  • WeCare provides a membership to users so that they are part of the WeCare network and can use and dispose their cups in the system
  • WeCare facilitates the collection of dirty cups from all affiliated vendors (centralised and decentralised models to be tested)
  • Funding through co-branding options (with selected brands) and potential one-off fee for membership.


  • Added value to coffee shop owners in doing the right thing and being able to use a brand
  • Provides greater customer experience as users can maintain their lifestyle in doing the right thing, along with the WeCare app that provides added value services

Potential enhancement to the idea:

  • WeCare coffee cups made of natural waste to provide a complete circular system (partnership) 
  • Traceable coffee-cups to gather data and enhance logistics and operations 
  • Data leveraged as a new asset to develop new services (membership, gamification etc.)


Through our initial pilot, there are a number of things we would like to test and de-risk:

  • Distribution system to collect and re-distribute the cups
  • Infrastructure to clean the cup (decentralised or centralised system)
  • Viable business model (assumptions is that consumers and vendors should not be impacted)
  • Disruption to vendors operating model as it's very industralised and tasks driven
  • Logistical bottlenecks as cups could be taken at vendor A but disposed at vendor B (ie. similar to the bicycle sharing challenges) 

Idea Title


Company / Organization Name



Where are you / your team located?

Australia, Melbourne

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

This idea will prevent small format plastic packaging waste as it gets rid of the take-away cup entirely. The only risk is for the reusable coffee cup to be disposed outside of disposal areas. To mitigate this risk, we are planning to enhance this idea by sourcing a coffee cup made out of coffee grinds or other materials that are made of natural waste.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Case 3: Straws and take-away coffee lids for Anne and Lucas

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

The region of implementation is Melbourne then Australia. Australians waste 1 billion coffee-cups every year

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Potential scaling risks: Logistic bottlenecks: Bicycle-sharing schemes from large cities evidenced a phenomenon of “bottle necks” whereby bicycles tend to accumulate in some drop points. We anticipate the same phenomenon for coffee-cups. Disruption to coffee shop operating model: While operationally simple, the business of selling coffee in a coffee shop, relies on a tight sequence of tasks and is very sensitive to labour cost. Therefore, our system has to be as easy as possible for vendors

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

We will de-risk our idea by piloting it in the Melbourne CBD which is ideal due to its coffee culture. We are looking at a 6-12 months pilot that build a critical mass of 25-50 vendors and 500-1000 engaged users. Pilot deliverables: - Proven economic viability - WeCare established as a brand and attractive asset to identify co-branding options that can support the cost of the infrastructure Goals: - Successful pilot in the Melbourne CBD - Pilot in another Australian city

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Community collaboration organised through TheHakkas in Melbourne.

Tell us about your work experience

The team is a mix of: Engineers, Industrial designers, Food designers, UX designers, Consultants and Experience Strategist

Please describe your legal and organizational structure



Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Sylvain Emeric ,

We have received your Refinement Phase Submission Questions! Just a friendly reminder that the Phase closes tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. PT. so please update your contribution on the platform before the deadline.

Thank you for all your work this Refinement Phase and for being member of the OpenIDEO Community!

Photo of Sylvain Emeric

Thanks Lauren Ito ! I updated part of the contribution on the platform based on latest findings. However, the full details for the Refinement Phase Submission is captured in the form I sent yesterday.

Thank you!

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