Bristol Refill Cup Scheme

We’ve got big news, coffee drinkers

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Ecosurety to announce a new “Bristol Refill Cup Scheme”. The innovative new project will enable Bristolians to “borrow” a reusable takeaway cup from a café and then return it to another participating outlet so it can be used again and again, reducing waste and tackling pollution and littering across the city. We’re hoping that this will be live to use by Autumn 2022.

Coffee Mourning

An estimated 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups (30,000 tonnes) are used and thrown away each year in the UK, with 99% currently not recycled. The UK uses a mind-blowing 10,000 coffee cups every two minutes. These coffee cups would stretch around the world 5 and a half times if placed end to end.   

How it works:

Retailers across the city will sign up to the scheme, ordering cups at a low-cost subscription basis and will be provided with a stock of the reusable cups. When a customer comes in for a coffee they are given the option to have their coffee in a single-use cup or a reusable cup – with the environmental benefits communicated to the customer.

A feather in one’s app

The scheme will be piloted across the city by Autumn 2022 as part of City to Sea’s award-winning Refill campaign and app, which will enable residents and visitors to find locations to pick up and drop off their reusable cup. They simply scan a QR code on the cup and then the ownership of the cup goes to the customer. The customer uses the Refill app to manage the cup and will be reminded when are where to return the cup. The consumer then returns the cup to participating retailers who scan them back in, wash them and then the cups are used again….and again…and again!

But this is the really exciting part (well for us at least!). This new innovation will be the first of its kind to direct people to ‘borrow and return schemes’ through the Refill app. We have big plans for this and hope this will act as a pilot for similar schemes to work through the Refill app.

This reusable ‘returnable’ cup scheme in Bristol is designed to prevent 250,000 single-use hot drink cups from entering the waste stream. The project, launching across Bristol, will act as a pilot to better understand the most effective way to operate the system and engage the public before rolling it out in other major cities across the country in the future.

Jane Martin

Head of Development, City to Sea

Consumers shouldn’t have to choose

Our research released for World Refill Day was super clear. Consumers care and want to do more BUT in the current cost of living crisis are struggling to make ends meet. The new research reveals that sustainability is falling down the priority list for consumers, with cost coming out on top; 48% of Brits report changing where they shop or what they buy in the last six months, and 60% saying they now have to prioritise cost over any other criteria. 

We’ve taken this on board and price point will be one of our key designing principles in developing this project. We know for plastic reduction measures to work they have to be affordable and accessible for all.

“Plastic pollution remains one of the primary threats that our rivers, seas and oceans face. This is a challenge we all have a part in rising to and it’s important we make sure that our efforts to tackle plastic pollution are affordable and accessible to the whole city. I would encourage coffee shops from across our city to sign up to this pilot and help us grow this campaign. Inaction isn’t an option and I welcome those who come with innovative ideas like this to trial them in our city.” 

Marvin Rees

Mayor of Bristol

Helping us spice it up

The project is being supported by Jim Pizer, the founder of Thali Cafés in Bristol, who already run the first reusable Thali tin scheme in the city. He had some words of wisdom at our kick off meeting that we wanted to share here as well: “The whole user experience needs to be effortless for the customer. We know it needs to be appealing but, crucially, it also needs to be fun”

Roger that Jim!

Further exploration

All of this is only possible because of our amigos at Ecosurety who are seed funding the project through their Ecosurety Exploration Fund. We will raise a glass (or reusable coffee cup) to that.

If you’re a local business and want to get involved contact our Project Manager George Clark

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