Motueka business makes a further push towards New Zealand-wide sustainability

Nick and Steph Fry, makers of New Zealand’s first reusable cup, IdealCup™, launched New Zealand’s very first cup reuse model, CupCycling™, in Motueka in July 2017.

The CupCycling reusable cup swap initiative helps divert single-use takeaway coffee cups from landfill by having a fleet of reusable cups available at participating outlets. Customers pay a small one-off bond of $5 as their membership to the programme, which gives them access to CupCycling at one of more than 100 (and counting) participating cafes and outlets around New Zealand that have adopted the model. From then on, customers simply return their used cup and have it exchanged for a clean one with their next coffee purchase, for the price of the drink only.

The creative initiative was the invention of husband and wife team Steph and Nick Fry, who already owned and operated IdealCup, a New Zealand-based reusable cup manufacturing business.

“We have worked in the sustainability space for nearly 15 years and we are so proud to be able to provide leadership and vision for a cleaner, greener Aotearoa by giving Kiwis the option to reuse, and reduce waste in our landfills via our CupCycling system,” says IdealCup co-owner Steph Fry.

Made in NZ

The IdealCup is produced in Lower Hutt, and the business is managed from a base in Motueka, near Nelson, where it has garnered support from local companies such as Pic’s Peanut Butter and via partnerships with the Nelson Regional Development Agency. The cups themselves are made from lifetime reusable plastic and are manufactured right here in Aotearoa, which reduces the carbon costs of transportation, provides jobs to local communities and ensures the cups can be effectively managed at the end of their useful life. IdealCup can return any cup or reusable lid to the manufacturer and have them ground down and made into new cups and lids, showing transparent product stewardship in action.

Within one year of starting CupCycling, more than 14,000 cups were diverted from landfill in Motueka alone. A central Wellington cafe diverted 20,000 cups within just 11 months. CupCycling now operates in 14 regions across New Zealand including Tasman, Dunedin, Upper Hutt and the Wairarapa, as well as internationally in British Columbia in Canada. IdealCup estimate that through the CupCycling model they’ve prevented more than 100,000 single-use cups from entering landfills across the country.

“CupCycling is not a model designed for commercial gain,” says Steph. “We developed CupCycling as a social enterprise to sit alongside our IdealCup business – its focus is people and community over profit. CupCycling is about engaging with people and communities to have a real discussion about making positive changes to our usage culture by getting all of us working together to make a commitment to move away from the single-use throw away mindset we have created.”

Community engagement

One of the key attributes of the CupCycling system is that it engages with local councils, boards and community groups to garner their buy-in, with a view to securing subsidy towards the costs for local business owners who are eager to participate in CupCycling and ‘do the right thing’. This reduces barriers to entry and makes the opportunity even more viable. It’s a cost effective solution which allows councils to support their cafes and the community to make sustainable change in their region.

“The CupCycling model is flexible and can be used by just a single cafe wanting to have a reusable ‘cup swap’ system for their own customers, or by larger numbers of cafes within a region working together to ensure a greater impact,” says Steph.