Has the disposable cup had its day?: “Restaurateurs can save money with our system”

Has the disposable cup had its day?
“Restaurateurs can save money with our system”

By Nicole Plich

Disposable cups create an insane amount of waste. From next year, catering establishments will therefore have to offer their customers a sustainable alternative. A possibility that startups like Recup want to use with a deposit system.

Statistically speaking, every German uses around 70 disposable cups a year: This is shown by data from the Federal Environment Agency for 2021. Extrapolated that makes 55,000 tons of waste in Germany alone. As a result, the disposable cup overtakes the plastic bag when it comes to the number one cause of waste. This is a huge problem – especially because coffee and salad to go are now just as much a part of the urban lifestyle as the issue of sustainability.

However, several startups see this problem as an opportunity to rethink coffee enjoyment on the go. For example, Florian Pachaly and Fabian Eckert founded Recup, a deposit system for reusable cups, in September 2016. The principle is simple: If you order a coffee in the Recup in the café, you pay a deposit of one euro and can bring the reusable cup back the next time you visit.

“How to Hack” – the podcast

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“We are a by-product for gastronomy. We are an enabler for living sustainably,” say Pachaly and Eckert in the podcast “How To Hack”.

A by-product that many catering establishments could depend on from January 1st next year. Because then restaurants, cafés and others are obliged to offer their customers an alternative to disposable cups. The Cologne startup Vytal is therefore also developing a sustainable deposit system: Each container is provided with an individual QR code, which is scanned by the restaurateurs when they are loaned.

Drinks work better than bowls

“Founder Florian Pachaly was voted Social Entrepreneur of the Year at the German Startup Awards this year.”

(Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild)

The idea for Recup came to Pachaly and Eckert when they were students. In the university cafeteria, they noticed that students got coffee in disposable cups, drank it and threw the cup away. Their sustainable cups can now be borrowed and returned from around 12,000 locations in Germany. The startup also offers reusable trays. Customers have to pay a deposit of five euros if they want to eat a salad in it. So far, however, not a great success, as Pachaly and Eckert admit. “We still see room for improvement in the bowls,” they say in the podcast. “They don’t fit all offerings. Drinks fit into cups easier than food into bowls.”

However, the founders are convinced that their approach is the right one: A Recup cup replaces up to 1000 disposable cups, a bowl around 500 disposable packaging. According to you, it is also a worthwhile system for restaurateurs. They have to pay 31 euros a month if they want to offer the cups. “It’s like a gym membership,” say Pachaly and Eckert. “That’s attractive because disposable waste is expensive. Restaurateurs can save money with our system.”

What advice do Pachaly and Eckert give to other founders in order to be successful? “You need a clear vision and a clear goal. For us, it was about getting rid of disposable cups. That way we could make decisions more easily,” say Pachaly and Eckert.

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