Startup RECUP Seeks to Replace Disposable Coffee Cups


The “to-go lifestyle” has taken over the lives of many people all over the world. In some places, more than in others, and with a bit of a dip due to the pandemic, but the waste that is created by this lifestyle is undeniable. A German sustainability startup, called RECUP, now seeks to provide a more sustainable way without breaking the habits of the people. Of course, people can always bring their own cups and have them filled for their to-go brew, but those consumers aren’t part of the problem.

RECUP has been founded by Fabian Eckert and Florian Pachaly, who were inspired to do this based on their frustration with one-use cups during their studies. Hailing from Munich, Germany, the startup RECUP has made it its mission to provide an innovative and sustainable solution for both to-go consumable providers as well as the customers who buy such products. The final goal here would be to entirely replace the paper cups for one-time usage and the waste that comes along by using such.

RECUP mood barista sustainable coffee cup startup
RECUP comes in various sizes (Image: RECUP)

Why are regular to-go cups a problem?

Based on statistics listed by ScienceDirect, about 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world every day. What does that mean for the to-go generation? In Germany, 2.8 billion disposable cups are used every year and become waste, as reported by Germany’s central environmental authority in 2019. A report from The Guardian in 2020 states that the figures from the UK account for a total of 2.5 billion paper coffee cups per year. One might think that recycling paper would not be that problematic, but, as reported by the BBC, 99.75% of coffee cups are not recycled at all.

RECUP Coffee Cup and Smartphone Finder App
Find places that work with RECUP in their app (Image: RECUP)

What is RECUP about?

The solution concept is simple but sophisticated. RECUP provides not only reusable cups, which would certainly not be novel. They work to establish a network of convenience product providers that use the RECUP, the customer pays a deposit fee (1 EUR) on top, and can later return the RECUP to get the deposit back or just exchange it for another new RECUP, in case they are buying another, let’s say, a cup of coffee for instance.

Also interesting: Print Your Face on Your Coffee

The hard part here is to establish an alliance and network of companies and partners that take part in this journey for a more sustainable way of living, without compromises for the user experience. If this is to take off, they must make sure that almost all places that sell coffee to go, or similar products, hand out the RECUP but also accept a return of a RECUP that was bought at any other place.

Only in Germany but growing steadily

The RECUP itself is made up of material that can be recycled, but it also helps that it can be used more than once, given they are properly maintained and cleaned, of course. Based on the information RECUP provides on their website, one unit can be used up to 1,000 times.

RECUP Startup Germany Team Shot
The RECUP team (Image: RECUP)

Since 2016, RECUP is working to establish this, and they have partnered with communities, cities, small local businesses, and even large companies such as Shell, Alnatura, Denn’s Biomärkte, McDonald’s, Bio Company, and Aral since February 2021. If RECUP continues with this business model, expanding to other countries might also be part of the future strategy. Especially in border regions, this would help the customers to get and return their RECUPs anywhere.

And if I want to eat something?

Okay, the startup name suggests it wasn’t initially part of the plan, but part of their latest idea is to expand towards the to-go food products as well, and they seek to do this with the REBOWL. The REBOWL was introduced last year and is aimed at the market for take-away dishes.

REBOWL Sustainable Food Bowl From RECUP
Stacked REBOWL (Image: RECUP)

If they work well, I could imagine that some of the happy customers who like the REBOWL might even keep this bowl at home as well and not return it. I suppose that will be up to how expensive the deposit value would be for the REBOWL, but it’s something to consider. If it’s cheaper than Ikea bowls and comes with a lid, people might just stick with it, as it’s also dishwasher-safe.

Related story: IBM Files a Patent for Coffee Delivery Drone

Overall this seems like an interesting approach, but it can only prevail if many companies, big and small, are part of the partner ecosystem. If there is no convenience to it, or if the product introduces any new complexity, the solution might not be as successful as it could be with a strong partner network.

YouTube: RECUP – In a nutshell (German)

Photo credit: All images shown are owned by RECUP and were provided as part of a press kit.
Source: RECUP press material / Ashley Roberts (ScienceDirect) / Umwelt Bundesamt / Jamie Doward (Guardian) / BBC

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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