Moving towards a reusable future

Single-use is so 2020!


It takes 21 days to form a new habit. Not long hey?


Over the past twelve months we have collectively formed many new habits. While some have been mandated (like the Covid Safe app) others have taken rise through cultural anxieties (like the panic around reusable cups), all the result of uncertain times.


As a society we now have a better understanding of our collective behaviours.


Companies like Facebook and Google, using the data they collect about each of us, are becoming increasingly more powerful. Largely because of their ability to predict our behaviours and nudge us in the directions of those who can afford to pay.


Predicting and manipulating behaviour is an everyday occurrence. Sounds a bit scary, but it's a reality. So when Starbucks decided to ban reusable cups (with zero scientific or government advice), the algorithms kicked into gear and those who could afford to exploit the panic, did so.


In a way we’ve been playing catch up ever since. And those on the front line, our baristas and cafe owners, have been caught in the middle of it all.


Reclaiming the reusable future is a public health emergency, environmental emergency and cultural imperative.


Leading the way forward is a growing number of cafes who are ‘bucking’ the Starbucks trend, showing the world how reusables are not only safe to use, but preferred.


As an organisation we want to be able to better support them, so in January we embarked on a pilot project to assist cafes to implement behaviour change initiatives - a coordinated pilot across our Plastic Free Places communities, from all corners of Australia.



THE REUSABLES PILOT PROJECT


With our support, Sonder Coffee @sondercoffeeperth in Vic Park, dedicated January to increasing the usage of reusable cups by their customers, culminating in ‘Use Your Own Cup Day’ on Friday 29 January, where Sonder stopped using single-use cups for the entire day, offering takeaways in reusables cups only. The goal was to reduce waste, plastic pollution and change customer habits.


Reusable options included BYO, borrowing a cup from their cup library, or utilising the reusable cup network Renome (Find out more on our blog on Reusable Networks).


Sonder also actively engaged with their community not simply as consumers of coffee, but also as responsible citizens. This approach helped to foster a stronger sense of community and loyalty from the residents of Vic Park.




To engage customers, Sonder had several initiatives. They:

  • implemented a mug library for customers to borrow a mug and return it on their next visit.

  • used the Renome reusable cup network, where customers pay a $5 deposit to borrow a reusable cup, with the deposit refunded on return.

  • stamped their single-use cups with a reminder for their customers to BYO next time.

  • held a competition for repeat customers who brought their reusables to win coffees.

  • continued to offer a 50c discount for reusables.

  • encouraged customers to take some ‘me-time’ and dine-in if they forgot their own cup

  • displaying “Reusables Preferred Here” posters and signage so that customers felt comfortable to BYO.


THE RESULTS

  • Week one: 17.5% of customers used their own cup.

  • Week two: 20.3% of customers used their own cup.

  • Week three: 21.2% of customers used their own cup.

  • On ‘Use your own cup day’: 100% of customers used their own cup or dined-in.

The remaining % of customers were a combination of both dine-in and takeaway single-use. We did not have separate data for single-use/dine-in for this pilot.


January was so successful that Sonder Coffee is continuing to strive towards increasing the number of reusable cups used, hoping to one day soon be 100% reusable every day.



WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?


Across Australia, 2.7 million single-use throwaway cups are discarded every day. They cannot be recycled in kerbside collections due to their plastic lining. They contaminate the recycling stream, end up in landfill, or worse, in our environment.


Our throwaway culture devalues all of us... everything and everyone 😢. We want to build a reuse culture and show that reuse is possible and more beneficial than single-use to businesses and our communities.


The concept of a ‘Use Your Own Cup Day’ was inspired by UYO.NZ which started in New Zealand in 2018 and we’re excited to bring it to Australia. We ran this campaign in each of our Plastic Free Places communities (Adelaide, Perth, Cairns, Townsville and Byron Bay).



GOING FORWARD


We’ve been so blown away by the feedback and are now developing a toolkit so other cafes can follow suit, increase their use of reusables, reduce their costs and the impacts their business and customers have on our environment.


We learnt a lot over the course of January - it's not just the big tech companies or those with the greatest financial reach, that can change our collective behaviours. As a society we can reclaim our future and make our own decisions about the type of world we want to live in. And by empowering cafes with the tools and knowledge of behaviour change we can foster a society of reuse. One where cafes are in control of their destiny, not multinational chains.