Europe is a continent of coffee drinkers and our need for a convenient caffeine kick has one very obvious negative side effect - the ever-growing mountain of discarded one-use coffee cups. In Germany at least, they might have come up with a solution. RECUP is a simple reusable coffee cup sharing system, and it's rolling out across the country.
Recent research to find out the world's biggest coffee drinking nations showed that 9 out of the top 10 most coffee-mad countries were in Europe (with only Canada sneaking in to claim the 10th spot). Germany was in a modest 16th place, sipping their way through a mere 5.5 kilos of coffee per person each year. But the country's love for a quick "coffee to go" means they still manage to get through a huge 2.8 billion paper cups each year - that's seven million a day, 10,000 cups every two minutes!
Refill not Landfill - No Effort Required
While we might tell ourselves that the one-use paper cups we pick are a "green" alternative to polystyrene, in fact only a tiny percentage of them actually get recycled. And they're not made of just paper, of course, with the plastic impermeable lining taking approximately 30 years to break down.
One obvious way to avoid becoming part of the problem is of course to take your own reusable mug when you know that you're going to need a caffeine fix. But what happens when you forget your own mug? Or you just can't be bothered to lug it around all day? Or any variation of the above? A system like RECUP offers you a neat solution.
How Does RECUP Work?
The three-step system is incredibly simple:
1. Download the RECUP app from the App Store or Google Play to find which cafes, bakeries and stores in your area are taking part in the service.
2. When you're there, order your drink in a RECUP rather than a normal one-use cup. You pay a one euro deposit for the cup... but get a discount on your order!
3. When your cup is empty, just give it in to any of the other participating establishments. Collect your one euro deposit and you can even leave the washing up to someone else.
The programme has already been rolled out all over the country, meaning you could technically buy a coffee in a RECUP in Berlin, drink it on the train and then hand it in when you arrive in Munich. The more cafes, bakeries and shops that participate, the more successful it's likely to be.
And aside from looking pretty sweet - check out the cartoon landmarks on the special Berlin version above - the cup is:
- extra-light and shatterproof
- created from 100% recycleable plastic
- made in Germany
Wait... they're made of plastic?
The company claims that they've done their research and while it might sound a bit weird, this particular type of plastic (polypropylene) is actually the most sustainable alternative for a reusable cup right now.
Firstly, its impact on the environment is less than conventional plastics - because it doesn't take so much energy to recycle it or to produce it in the first place.
Secondly, it's durable and can stand up to repeated washings (each RECUP can be used 500 times before being recycled).
And thirdly, it's got all the features need to make it possible to roll it out on a wide-scale - like being light, stackable, dishwasher-safe and food-grade standard.
And hey, it's at least a step in the right direction.
Maybe the next thing will be a similar system to replace all the plastic packaging wrapped around our takeaway food? Deliveroo, Foodora, Lieferando and Co, take note and get inspired!