Takeaway coffees are still often consumed in single-use cardboard cups. This leads to litter and overflowing rubbish bins on the streets. Moreover, despite their seemingly sustainable nature, many of these cups are not recycled but burnt during waste disposal. Currently, 70% of marine waste consists of single-use plastics, with disposable cups and meal containers among the top 10. The rising trend in takeaways along with rising environmental awareness results in a high demand for sustainable alternatives to disposable packaging.
With the project Quppa, CORE cv is working on a solution to initiate the switch to reusable packaging: we drew up a proof of concept for a smart reuse platform for coffee cups. Unlike existing systems that work with a deposit, we developed a platform for borrowing and returning reusable packaging without requiring users to pay a cash deposit. Moreover, this platform allows us to collect a whole range of data, such as how long a user owns the packaging, how many times a packaging is used and where the packaging is borrowed and returned.
Our goal is to obtain an efficient and high-performance reuse system that will enable us to initiate the transition to reusable packaging on a large scale.
PartnersStad Leuven, KU Leuven, Borealis, Quppa BV
Quppa is the first reusable packaging system with full traceability throughout the chain. Each package is tracked through RFID technology. This allows us to precisely measure the impact of the system.
We are pioneering the 'reuse as a service' concept in Belgium, whereby we unburden our partners to the maximum extent in the use of reusable packaging. Our partners do not buy the packaging, but receive it as a service.
We managed to set up a strong chain cooperation between partners from industry, government and local traders. We got the ball rolling further by triggering investments among our partners.
The development of a smart bin for packaging collection was a key piece of the puzzle to scale up reusable packaging systems within cities.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
As long as disposable cups remain free of charge, it will be difficult for reusable alternatives to gain ground in the hospitality market. Additional legislation discouraging single-use could accelerate the transition to reusable packaging.
Launching a new product in the catering market is a huge challenge. Approaching and convincing hospitality businesses is very time-consuming. We have not yet reached the scale to make a reusable packaging system profitable.
The user experience of reusable cups should be at the forefront of the design and not at the expense of the desire to make the system as scalable or future-proof as possible. Every additional barrier you create is one too many.
While everyone realises that we should avoid disposable packaging as much as possible, the switch to reuse remains difficult. We find that behaviour does not always match intentions, and psychological barriers or habits also come into play.
90%return rate of cups
93hours average return time
876cups in circulation in Leuven
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
By merging with the company Red-use, we are now combining our experience from this project with Red-use's experience in reuse networks for food bowls in Hasselt and Mechelen. With this strengthened team, we will continue with determination to make our concept widely available in Belgium.
Although we did not achieve our goal of rolling out Quppa on a large scale in Leuven and other cities, this project has given us many new insights and we are proud to be able to get the ball rolling further this way. We now understand better than ever the pain points of such systems, and we are fully gathering the final pieces of the puzzle to achieve our goals.