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‘Just bring the cup back’: How Our Kinds plans to make the single-use plastic cup redundant

A Perth-based business is on the path to divert one million single-use coffee cups from landfill, after helping a Subiaco cafe save 7000 takeaway cups during a six week trial.

Founded by Karen Monaghan and Hamish Cockburn, Our Kinds asked customers at The Corner Store to bring back their takeaway coffee cups so they could be washed and reused, rather than thrown into the nearest bin.

“We put 300 cups into circulation and asked people to bring them back. Those 300 cups have saved 7000 takeaway cups in six weeks,” Mr Cockburn said.

Mr Cockburn — who also owns The Corner Store — said the business expected to only see around 60 per cent of takeaway cups returned, however, they retained about 95 per cent.

To avoid any further wastage, the business targeted regular customers that visited the cafe frequently.

While KeepCups are a popular option for environmentally conscious consumers, Mr Cockburn noted they can be inconvenient and customers often forget to return them.

“We really want to make it easier for the barista and the consumer, replacing a standard cup with a standard cup,” he said.

The business said that if it can team up with 20 cafes in a year and have 1000 cups returned per week, it would be able to save one million cups from landfill.

Mr Cockburn said the most effective way to encourage customers to return their cup was to ask directly: “Just bring the cup back”.

“When you’ve got about three seconds to take someone’s order and let them know how things work … they look at you and go, ‘OK’,” he said.

Our Kinds Co-founders and Hamish Cockburn and Karen Monoghan at The Corner Store in Subiaco. They’re on a mission to make the single use takeaway cup redundant globally, and they’re running trials at The Corner Store. Ian Munro
Camera IconOur Kinds Co-founders and Hamish Cockburn and Karen Monoghan at The Corner Store in Subiaco. They’re on a mission to make the single use takeaway cup redundant globally, and they’re running trials at The Corner Store. Ian Munro Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Our Kinds will use blockchain technology to enable a real-time count of how many single-use cups the initiative has stopped from going to waste.

“Each time a cup is scanned at the register, that will be updated on our website, so the cafes can actually be showing that in real-time at their cafes or they could update it on a blackboard out the front,” Ms Monaghan said.

A second Subiaco cafe, Little Rokeby, has recently adopted the initiative. Owner Adrian Liew said implementing sustainable measures was important for the next generation.

“We go through 1500 cups a week easily, and they end up in landfill … this could be a better solution,” he said.

Takeaway coffee cups and lids are set to be banned by the State Government by the end of 2022. Ms Monaghan said initiatives like Our Kinds would “support the industry to be able to comply with that ban”.

The business will start manufacturing its own recyclable range of products in Australia over the next three to six months, and has plans to expand globally.

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