OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

What if single-use cups were… reusable!?

Connecting local business and the community to make reusable cups easier.

Photo of Daniel Grosso

Written by

The problem:

Countless single use plastic takeaway food vessels being used once and ending up in our landfill or ecosystems.


The solution:

Facilitate local, communal, reusable food vessels by connecting underutilized commercial dishwashers with reusable items that have a nominated value for their return.


How do we do this?

  • Create a website that allows vendors to sign up to offer their commercial dishwasher to nominated reusable items.
  • Create the opportunity for the community and local businesses to contribute reusable items to participating vendors through the GO2CUP website.
  • Reusable items are made available to customers with no barrier.
  • Participating vendors nominate a value for returned items which is advertised on the online map directory of return locations.
  • Vendors wash the reusable items and make them available to the next customer.


What else do we do?

  • Ability to trade excess reusable items through the website so vendors can profit from the reusable items they collect and wash.
  • Ability for anyone with access to a reusable item library and a commercial dishwasher to offer their reusable items for waste-free events for a nominated price. This connects event organizer wanting to reduce their waste with local available reusable item libraries.
  • Import cheap reusable items with branding options for local businesses that can be contributed into the network.
  • Operate approved regional washing facilities that support large scale waste-free events as well as act as a storage facility for distribution of reusable items into the network.
  • Facilitate independent dishwashing businesses that rent out convenient collection points at people’s workplaces. The reusable items collected are washed and then sold back into the network through a participating vendor.


Value for participating vendors:

Participating vendors will save money by replacing the single use cups that they would usually purchase with the reusable items that are contributed to their store. Also, by offering a return value for the reusable item and being apart of a local solution they can increase customer loyalty. Profit can also be achieved by offering reusable items for events as well as trading excess reusable items with other participating vendors.


Value for the community:

An easy reusable option. No scanning, no deposit fee. Just a reusable item that they can return whenever convenient. There is even the option to donate old KeepCups or other food containers that just sit in the cupboard not being used.

The community can use the online map to find their most convenient deposit point as well as what associated value that vendor is offering for the reusable item’s return.

Individuals can also contribute reusable items to their favourite participating vendor because they care about and want to be apart of a local solution to single use plastic.

There is also the option to register your workplace as a convenient collection point for a weekly fee. This gets registered with surrounding participating vendors as well as independent dishwashing businesses that support the collection, washing, and redistribution of reusable items throughout the network.


Value for businesses contributing reusable items:

Branding options are available for reusable items, providing cheap circular advertising that exists for as long as the cup remains within the network.


Value for event organisers:

Ability to easily produce waste-free events without relying on volunteer hours to wash reusable items.


How do we fund this?

There is multiple functionality for vendors to participate in the website. There is a free option to sign up to the network with limited detail. There will be a small yearly fee for increased website functionality for detail on the website map displaying which reusable items are accepted; what discount is offered; receive informative materials for customers; receive training materials for staff; gain access to the vender portal where details can be updated, reusable items traded, contribute to the overall cup count; display reusable items available for events; be notified about collection opportunities within the area; and gain access to the Earth Saver Loyalty card program. There is a premium yearly fee that provides all of the above along with a 20% discount on reusable items; 100 GO2CUPs; and a carbon offset.

The second revenue stream is by importing and distributing reusable items into the network The margins have been reduced to make the reusable items accessible for individuals with a price discrimination for businesses wanting to put their logo on it.

The third revenue stream is from operating waste free events. The margins on this activity are substantially lower however, they are a great opportunity for exposure within the communities where the network can grow. There is also scope to rent out the carbon and water neutral washing facility to other local businesses who need access to a commercial dishwasher.


But who owns the cups?

We’re operating with a model where the cups are purely communal. Their purpose is to prevent as many single-use cups from going to landfill as possible. We communicate that to the community, and so far where we have operated the community really embrace the concept and the cups return. The reusable items have a value for the customer and for the vendors. The vendors nominate a value for the return of the reusable items. Vendors can also trade reusable items amongst each other or other independent dishwashers that operate within the network.

The premise we started with and have maintained so far is to offer both the customer and the vendor the same experience and a similar price as a single-use cup, except make it reusable. So we aim to put up as little barrier to the customer as possible to get involved with the reusable option.


This is dishwashing, how is this innovative?

The problems we face around single-use items require us to change the systems we operate within. These systems need to work for both the community as well as vendors, therefore we have taken an approach to focus on facilitating both of these stakeholders to work together to be a part of the solution. Recently there is a lot of momentum promoting people to bring their own cup, putting all the responsibility on the customer’s shoulders to reduce waste. Yet both business and the community have a role to play in solving these issues. We just need to provide the infrastructure to give them as easy a path as possible to work together. We also need to challenge this paradigm that we need to have more stuff to reduce our impact on this planet. What we need is to connect and cooperate with shared resources that are accessible to all.


The story:

I’ve been operating a dishwashing business for over a year now providing a reusable option at a local coffee shop and various events throughout Perth. I completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to develop the idea further this year and increase my capacity to take on more coffee shops and do larger events including beer/juice cups, plates, and cutlery. Being apart of this competition and seeing all the other ideas out there that prohibited people choosing reusable items by implementing barcodes to scan or a deposit made me realise that we should be removing barriers for customers to choose reusable, not adding them. Then I thought, what if we facilitated the connection between the already existing underutilized commercial dishwashers out there within a network of communal reusable items that have a value. This concept is also immediately scalable nationally and has the potential to be a global network of locally traded reusable items, preventing millions of single use plastic food vessels from entering landfill or our ecosystems.


Testing and prototyping:

Since October last year a reusable option has been available at Cool Breeze Café, a local café at a park in Bayswater, Western Australia. I’ve been tracking return rates, cup quantities, and receiving customer feedback from both the vendor and the community who use and return the reusable cups. This is an active and engaged community resulting in a 90% return rate for the first 3 months and then 98% from January until now. This is with only one collection point located at the coffee shop. There is evidence of customers keeping the cups for themselves and continuing to use them in place of single use cups. We know because we have seen them on the train and asked them if they knew they were meant to return the GO2CUP. This vendor and others, especially those involved with the Responsible Café program have shown that they are willing to pay more for a reusable option. We’ve also been offering this dishwashing service to vendors at public events and private functions with great customer feedback. Within the last year we have prevented over 10,000 single use cups from going to landfill with the current rate of reusable cup turnover projected to be over 20,000 in the following year.

Currently GO2CUP is facilitating a communal reusable coffee cup at 3 cafes in Mundaring, an outer Perth suburb along with Mundaring in Transition and Keep Australia Beautiful. This communal cup is going to be the prototype for the community testing the map directory of participating vendors as well as the distributed dishwashing model where vendors wash their own cup and make them available to the next customer. The current schedule has the communal cup available and operating at the 3 coffee shops in Mundaring within the next 8 weeks. Before this, the website will be updated with the map directory and information about the new distributed model of GO2CUP.

Another model is currently being trialed in Subiaco, an inner city work precinct of Perth. This trial has seen 3 coffee shops hold a reusable option for a local workplace, where staff utilise their on site dishwashers to wash and then return clean cups to the coffee shops themselves. 2 out of the 3 coffee shops participating have expressed interest in offering the service to other surrounding workplaces as well as have offered to use their own commercial dishwasher for returned cups to make it easier for their customers.

Idea Title

GO2CUP The smart, sustainable, reusable cup network.

Company / Organization Name

Website

The website has now been updated with the map directory: www.go2cup.com.au The proposed additional functionality is coming soon.

Where are you / your team located?

Perth, Western Australia.

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

If we are truly going to change the way we use resources to be in unity with our one precious planet we need a local reusable and renewable approach to be the norm. This concept sets up the infrastructure to facilitate a local reuse economy, instead of importing single-use items, using them once, and then sending them to landfill or into our ecosystems.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

This idea brings together Anne the coffee shop owner and Lucas the young professional. Anne wants her customers to choose reusable and Lucas wants the convenience to travel with his cup. Anne is already washing cups for her business and happy to wash a few more to be a part of the solution. Lucas understands the problem and is happy to make sure the cup is deposited within the network, when he remembers. Eventually he asks for his organisation to get a collection point to reduce their impact.

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

Currently we are developing the concept in Perth, Western Australia. It will work best in cities and towns where multiple vendors are willing to be apart of the solution.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Once the website infrastructure is in place, this concept is immediately scalable Australia wide. It will also be scalable to other location around the world once distribution and support services are in place within those regions. The plan is to become a social enterprise with 50% of profits going towards global clean up initiatives, 25% reinvested into business growth, and 25% return for investors.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Piloting: You have started to implement your solution as a whole with a first set of real users. You may have started to develop a business model for your idea, including identifying key customer segments, relevant partnerships, go-to-market strategy, and draft financials.

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

The opportunity to work with the Accelerator Program will allow me to refine this concept using the feedback, information, and data that has been collated so far into a scalable model which will facilitate a much larger impact. The funds for being a Top Idea will be used to set up the website infrastructure, create marketing solutions to promote new vendor participation and increase distribution of reusable items into the network.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

The founder of The Garage Sale Trail said (and this is probably a misquote), “you can’t change peoples behaviour, nor should you even try. All you can do is create the infrastructure and show that everyone else is doing it”. I applied this concept to the single-use cup. This was also supported by ideas like the Responsible Cafes program that highlighted that vendors are already willing to pay more for a reusable option. We’re just saying let’s make it easier and do it on a larger scale.

Tell us about your work experience

I spent many years as an engineer in the extractive resource industry. I completed an MBA specialising in environmental sustainability and now create systems that reuse resources as a priority.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

I’ve been working on this project solo and currently operate as a sole proprietor. The aim will be to become a company built for social enterprise.

19 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Hi Daniel Grosso !

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!

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

Thanks Lauren!

It has been a really valuable experience for me. I've definitely learnt a lot that will help me increase my impact to reduce single-use plastic packaging! Thanks for having me!

Spam
Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Hi Daniel Grosso !

I'm glad you've found this a valuable learning experience. Gratitude to you for being such an involved member of the OpenIDEO Community.

Thanks for all your hard Refinement Phase work!

Spam
Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Daniel!

There are 7 days left in the refinement phase.

If there is key information in the comments on your idea submission, I recommend that you move them to the main body of your idea submission before the cut-off time.

I just want to remind you that the deadline to complete the Refinement Questions via the online submission form is August 31 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

Thanks Kate,

I've just updated my idea submission. I hope I've addressed most of your questions from your previous comment.

Here are some further clarifications:
How would you get major chains on board with this idea?
The proposed new website has a function where customers request that they get involved with the communal reusable option. That way we can go to the major chains with the quantity of their customers who want it. We can also explain to them how they can save money by participating. The more reusable items that are delivered to their stores to be washed and used again, the more money they save not having to import single-use items.

You have mentioned that this solution is more expensive to vendors than disposable cups. Would you elaborate more on this?
The revised solution is cheaper than single-use cups. Unless they are purchasing local used reusable cups from other participating vendors. At the moment it is nearly impossible to wash and redistribute a reusable option for the 7-25c per single-use cups that most vendors are using. I've found that items can be washed and ready to use again for 40c per item with a high enough volume. The ability to trade reusable items between vendors as well as dishwashers will be within the functionality of the new proposed website, however it will most likely still be more expensive than importing single-use cups.

How does the dishwashing process generate income in a franchise model?
I will still be facilitating independent dishwashing businesses to operate within the network. They will generate the majority of their income by renting out collection points to workplaces. The reusable items that they collect and wash are traded within the network of participating vendors who want to top up their stock of reusable items. This generates a second revenue stream. Alternatively these businesses can offer their reusable items for waste-free events too.

If you have any other questions please let me know!

It's been an absolute blast being involved in this competition!

Spam
Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Daniel!

Welcome to refinement phase!

Would you be able to specify what testing has been done?

Would you also include this in the main body of your idea submission ‘I'm also currently running a trial in an inner city business district where 3 coffee shops are holding a reusable option for a close-by organisation. The plan is to take the learnings from these 3 trials and culminate into a single scalable system.’

How would you get major chains on board with this idea?

You have mentioned that this solution is more expensive to vendors than disposable cups. Would you elaborate more on this?

How does the dishwashing process generate income in a franchise model?

Please feel free to include answers of a sensitive nature in the Refinement Questions document.

I just want to remind you that the deadline to complete the Refinement Questions via the online submission form is August 31 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me by tagging me here (@ followed by my name) or send me an email - krushton@ideo.com

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

Thanks Kate Rushton 
I have just submitted my Refinement Questions via the online submission form.

I have actually altered my business model and strategy quite substantially from being involved with OpenIDEO and interacting with all these other awesome innovators and ideas! I'll edit my submission addressing your questions here shortly!

But basically I am removing all barriers for customers to choose a reusable option; providing a financial incentive for vendors to offer their existing commercial dishwasher into the network of communal reusable items; providing incentive for customers to return reusable items through a nominated return value from the participating vendors; and facilitating an accessible process for anyone to contribute reusable items into the network through their favourite vendors.

Spam
Photo of Sylvain Emeric
Team

Hi Daniel Grosso !
Thanks for your message on the WeCare idea. I'll be in Perth (CBD area) next week Tuesday/Wednesday and I'd love to have a coffee with you to discuss our ideas and see if there's potential for collaboration?
Cheers,
Sylvain
cc Pierre Nathie 

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

Hi Sylvain,

Yes definitely! Shoot me an email on contact@go2cup.com.au and we'll organise a time and place.

Cheers,

Dan

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

What does everyone think would be the challenge to have a dishwashing network for all kinds of reusable items amongst existing vendors who already have washing capabilities? I've recently been thinking maybe we should be promoting the dishwashing network and encourage easy access into such a network. That way vendors can obtain free packaging by people depositing communal reusable cups/food containers to their shop so they can wash and supply to the next customer who wants a reusable option. The dishwashing network could be an interactive map where customers can see where they can deposit their reusable items as well as have a reusable option for their next purchase. This could open up the opportunity for all kinds of reusable items to be washed and reused. There is even the opportunity to create a vendor portal where local participating vendors could trade reusable items between themselves instead of importing single-use items which predominantly end up in landfill or even worse our precious ecosystems. Local businesses, cafes, and organisations could contribute reusable items to the network and there could even be an opportunity for branding of items into the communal reusable network promoting their contribution. This scenario would provide a financial incentive for businesses to enter the network but still maintain zero barrier for the customer to choose reusable. Plus the more vendors that enter the network, the easier it is to return your reusable item. Within the interactive online map you could find which vendors provide what value for returning your reusable item. Or if people find reusable items on the ground they can easily locate where they can return the item for a value, whether it be a stamp for a free coffee or a 10c discount off their next purchase. This concept still supports the idea of separate regional washing facilities which offer renting convenient collection points for reusable items at people's workplaces. They could trade reusable items within the network, i.e. sell on reusable items to participating vendors who want to maintain supplying a reusable item to their customers. It's a little complex at the moment but I think developing how the dishwashing network could work for businesses and consumers is where I'd like to take this concept in the next phase. Definitely let me know what you think.  

Spam
Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

Hi Daniel, you bring valuable insight showing how go cups can be integrated into a reuse system, it's a great scheme. Check out my contribution @Join the Eco to go™ Movement  to see how cups made from renewable materials can fit in to this type of scheme. All the best, Lynn

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

Hi Lynn, yes I love your contribution! I have been in search of a better cup to use in this style of system and when I came across your concept I thought how awesome it would be if I could have a cup made out of the waste product of the coffee process. There is definitely scope to collaborate here. My proposed model works around limiting the entry barrier and accountability for the customer so there is the challenge around the initial purchase price of the cup reducing the risk of lost cups. But I'm all about finding a way to make things work! Definitely pop me an email contact@go2cup.com.au if you'd like to discuss further collaboration.

Cheers,

Dan

Spam
Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

Hi Dan, thank you for your response - I understand the initial purchase price can be a challenge, right now some plastic cups are cheaper than cups made from husk / bio resin. With growing demand for natural products we hope to drive down the price. We also need to promote natural products to make them more appealing. I will mail you on private email to discuss how we can collaborate.

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

Thanks Lynn! Agreed, a good way to make natural products the norm is to make them abundant and easily accessible. I look forward to your email and finding out more about your product.

Spam
Photo of Troy Gardner
Team

A similar model to this is the trays and dishes and metal silverware used in food court type places and farmer markets, these typically rely on one of the included larger kitchens equipped with suitable dishwasher.

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

Yep totally Troy! Imagine if whole suburbs were like your local food court. Reusable items being made available when ordering, and then collection and washing in a large carbon and water neutral washing facility.

Spam
Photo of Gesina null
Team

Hi Daniel! I love to see your idea here. How easy/hard is it for you to get a vendors buy-in?
Have you had any success with the larger chains like Starbucks?
Just found this information: 95 percent of the 6,500 cafes and coffee shops in Australia today are independently owned, with big chains like Starbucks and Gloria Jeans making up the remaining 5 percent. Link http://slate.me/2uIHJil (2013)
Thats probably an advantage for reusable systems. I think there are many more chains leading the coffee market in the US.
How do you find the dishwashing facilities?
How do the consumers react to the reusable alternative?

Would love to talk more about our experiences with reusable programs!
~Gesina

Spam
Photo of Daniel Grosso
Team

Hi Gesina, thanks for your support!

Vendor buy-in has been quite easy so far amongst the independently owned vendors who understand they are contributing to this problem. What varies is how much each vendor is willing to contribute to the reusable option. There are vendors that happily contribute the full cost and other vendors who won't contribute a cent more than they currently pay for a single-use cup.

In terms of the consumers, we have had an overwhelming majority of people who have used the reusable option really embrace it and want to be a part of it. There is a very small percentage of the population who refuse to use the reusable option when it is there. Most of these people quote sanitation concerns as the reason when we have asked them. And that is fine, this concept isn't targeted towards that minority of people and can work if the majority jump on board.

The dishwashing is the easiest part. Most commercial dishwashers can wash large quantities of cups very quickly. We have operated using existing coffee shop dishwashers as well as I have set up a commercial dishwasher at my home. There is the option of having the regional washing facilities simply being at people's houses and would be a perfect business franchise as a second income, especially for stay at home parents (obviously this option will vary depending on local and regional legislation). Alternatively there I am exploring local and regional government buy-in for setting up the carbon and water neutral regional washing facilities, potentially focusing on co-working or community areas.

If you have any other questions feel free to pop me an email at contact@go2cup.com.au.

Cheers,

Dan

Spam
Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Daniel!

It is great to see you in the challenge.

Do you have any existing barriers to developing your idea that you’d like to share to help the OpenIDEO community understand where they might join the conversation and provide feedback?

How many vendors and workplaces are currently part of the Go2Cup Scheme?

Can you explain a bit more about how this idea can be implemented at scale? What would need to happen for this design to be brought to market at a larger scale? What would it take for this idea to integrate at the scale of implementation you are aiming for?

I noticed this on your website:

‘Once you reach a certain number of cups per day in your collection bin you can actually make money off your GO2CUPs!’ - what is the critical number of cups per day here?

You also might want to connect to GO Box - The service for reusable and returnable take away and check out what they are doing.