We are throwing out over 40 billion single-use cups across the U.S. and Europe each year. Many have tried to address the waste issue; no one’s succeeded on a large scale. Offering to knock 10 cents off the cost of my $5.00 coffee isn’t much of an incentive to lug a bulky, reusable cup around (if I haven’t already lost said cup in a taxi cab).

We considered this when we created Globelet. A subscription service using the Internet of Things and RFID to reinvent the reusable cup.

It works like this: Participating coffee retailers stock the cups, made of plant-based plastic, and give them to a Globelet member buying a coffee. The latter can then “return” the cup to any number of locations around the city. Once returned, the cups are collected, washed, and redistributed to the participating stores. And since each cup is RFID tagged and registered to a user’s account, Globelet can charge a user for unreturned cups.

Globelet will reportedly be available to the public this year in Australia and New Zealand, and will be followed by a worldwide rollout in the future.

For Globelet to work on a large scale, we will need not just the support of the coffee shops who participate, but also a strong enough interest from the general population. I speculate here, but I could see Globelet or its technology eventually getting acquired by a heavyweight coffeeshop chain, one with the kind of reach and brand power Globelet needs to influence consumer behavior.

In Germany, the city of Frieberg has introduced The Freiberg Cup: users put a 1 euro deposit down on a cup and can return it to one of the 100 participating businesses across the city. The system is reportedly cheaper for both consumers and businesses, and early results are “encouraging.” It’s not unfathomable for similar systems to start popping up all over the country as more people ditch the cardboard cup.

Because that’s what the success of the reusable cup really comes down to: changing our behavior. It’s automatic at this point to walk into a coffeeshop, order, and walk out clutching a paper cup. That companies like Globelet offer an environmentally conscious option without the inconvenience of having to keep track of a reusable cup means the concept could have a real shot at success.


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