Disposable cups take up a lot of space in public bins and are a major source of litter. Moreover, 99% of them are not recycled. It is hard to believe that water, raw materials, energy and transport are being wasted for something that we do not use for more than 10 minutes.
There is an urgent need for a reusable alternative that is also cheap, that the consumer does not have to carry around all the time, and that is accessible to anyone, anywhere.
Ineke Van Nieuwenhove and Vanessa Debruyne of vzw Mei Plasticvrij took up this challenge with the Billie Cup project. The Billie Cup is a reusable cup that can be bought and exchanged everywhere for a 1 euro deposit. It is a growing network of participating businesses in Belgium and the Netherlands, both catering establishments (chains and small businesses) and companies, universities, daily take-aways, hospitals, train stations, cities, etc. The more partner businesses participate, the more circular our concept becomes.
Billie Cup makes it easy for consumers to make a waste-free choice. For a small deposit, he has a cup that he can use for years at home, on the road or at the office, and that he can have refilled or returned at any participating business. And at the end of the day, the cups can also be easily recycled.
In order to get a realistic picture of market needs, business and environmental challenges, and possible collaborations, we decided to make this project a real case and test our concept with a few partner shops.
Ultimately, we aim to create an earnings model that can continue without subsidies.
Mei Plasticvrij vzw
Billie Cup's expansion largely came to a halt during the lockdowns. All the large canteens in offices, colleges, universities and hospitals closed and the smaller coffee bars also had fewer takeaways because fewer people were on-the-go.
It was a time for Billie Cup to find new partners and opportunities. The system can only become profitable if we can scale up more quickly. For that, we need an injection of capital and extra manpower. The intention is that after the summer of 2021 we can fully focus on expansion in Flanders and the Netherlands.