My brother and I started a café business called Bluebag in Melbourne in 1998. As the business grew we became increasingly concerned about the volume of packaging waste our business and our customers consumed.
We looked to purchase and sell reusable cups as an alternative to disposable, but observed that not only were existing options unsuitable for specialty coffee, they hadn’t won the hearts of consumers.
Ceramic mugs were heavy, breakable, needing to be heated prior to filling and impossible to dose correctly with milk and coffee. Thermoses were bulky, unattractive and invariably the coffee shot had to be poured into the thermos destroying the crema on the shot. Further to this, both options were made of composite materials, making them dishwasher unfriendly and difficult to recycle at the end of life.
We had the notion to make our own, but were daunted by the enormous costs of set up and manufacture. My moment of clarity was when I was heating the milk in my daughter’s sippy cup one morning. Imagine if I gave her milk in a disposable cup and then discarded it? That idea seemed so wasteful, yet I did it with coffee twice a day! This moment was the call to action.
We took a huge gamble that usability and aesthetics were the key reasons for poor take up of reusables as an alternative to disposable cups. Our café experience was invaluable in providing input to make the KeepCup work behind the coffee machine as well as for the user.
Almost four years later, with a great deal of help from design professionals, we have kick started a behavioral change in Melbourne that is spreading across the world. People purchase KeepCups because they love the way they look and feel, and continue doing so because they form a positive habit. For many of our customers it has been the beginning of a journey to reduce the consequences of convenience behavior. Feel good. Do good.
KeepCup is from Australia with love. The environmental footprint of our products is really important to us, so we were committed to local manufacture. Sustainability is linked to usability, and we believe; quality and underpins the ethos of the business. As the business expanded globally we were hesitant to proclaim our Australian manufacture but it turns out this is a really positive message, and made in Melbourne even more so, given our city’s reputation for specialty coffee.
In 2012 we opened a warehouse in the UK and in March 2013 we opened in Los Angeles. Local presence means that we can begin to tell a local story in these markets, local assembly and local printing of packaging and point of sale materials, reducing the environmental footprint of the KeepCups.
KeepCup is also less plastic. Disposable cups are lined with polyethylene and have a polystyrene lid, so there is enough plastic in 28 disposable cups to make one small KeepCup. In 2009, Simon Lockrey from the Centre for Design at RMIT completed a Symapro Life Cycle Analysis which has independently verified our sustainability claims. Research conducted by Canadian chemist, Dr Martin Hocking who found the break-even energy requirement to manufacture a reusable plastic cup versus a paper cup over a lifetime use was under 15 uses.
Since June 2009 we have sold over eight million KeepCups, users have diverted billions of disposable cups from landfill. In this time approximately 5 trillion disposable cups have been made and discarded to landfill.
KeepCups are now sold in 65 countries around the world.
We think of ourselves as a campaign supported by a product, where the best reusable is the one you use.
Ours just happens to be pretty awesome.
Many small acts will make a phenomenal difference.
Managing Director, KeepCup
A movement happens when people talk to one another, when ideas spread within the community, and most of all, when peer support leads people to do what they always knew was the right thing.
Seth Godin, Tribes