The future is returnable! 

We’ve teamed up with Circular&Co. to make refill and reuse more accessible. 

We’re thrilled to have teamed up with the pioneers of circular design, Circular&Co. to create a comprehensive new guide, “The future is returnable. Taking a circular approach to hot drinks” outlining a blueprint for establishing a successful returnable cup scheme. 

This NEW and completely free to download guide provides invaluable insights and practical advice for organisations looking to implement returnable cup schemes at scale. It celebrates the collective efforts of the innovators, first movers, grassroots changemakers, and social entrepreneurs who have already piloted other reuse models around reusable cups and looks to draw common learnings.  

The launch of the ambitious partnership comes following an explosion of innovation in the UK when it comes to returnable systems. Our goal is to support the transition to reuse systems at scale by enabling and empowering organisations to create impactful returnable cup schemes. Together, we’re on a mission to make circularity accessible for everyone.

Launching the blueprint for a circular future  

It can be a challenging space to work in, and we know no one size fits all. But we hope this guide will give some clarity on the key considerations your organisation will need to think about to maximise its impact. To help your organisation, we’ve highlighted practical examples to help you understand what might work best for your organisation and outlined behaviour change and marketing recommendations to support with driving first time trial and crucially, return rates.  

By sharing first hand experiences in the sector and drawing on the expertise of over 20 industry experts, leading reuse brands, and businesses, we’ve created the guide to provide invaluable insights and practical advice for organisations looking to implement returnable cup schemes at scale. 

    Turning the tide on single-use plastic  

    With an estimated 2.5 – 5 billion single-use cups being used in the UK every year, many of them ending up polluting our streets, beaches and waterways, we urgently need to move away from our disposable single-use culture towards a reusable model. Returnable cup schemes present a promising solution to the problem of single-use cups and this blueprint aims to support the transition to reuse systems.  

    Leading by example 

    As longtime champions of refill and reuse, City to Sea is delighted to see the recent explosion of interest and innovation in returnable systems. Over the last year, new returnable schemes have launched across the country including our own pilot of a city-wide -returnable cup scheme in Bristol, the Refill Return Cup. 

    Featuring experiences and learnings from high profile organisations such as National Trust, the Eden Project, and Blenheim Palace as well as forward-thing cafes, Universities and businesses  we hope this blueprint will encourage, empower and enable businesses to make a meaningful impact in the transition to reuse systems.

    “There simply isn’t a need for anything to be single-use in modern society. Under the principals of a circular economy, the reuse and re-circulation of resources is key, making them cheaper and profoundly better for the environment. But for the last four years, collectively as an industry, we have not been able to move the dial past 5-6% of takeaway coffee being consumed in a reusable cup. The fact is, we need a complementary mass market, mass habit-changing, mass engagement solution. After nearly two years of returnable development, using our Circular Returnable Cup in multiple global trials, and the in-depth work carried out in this blueprint, we’re now in a position to shape the future. It’s roll out time!”

    Dan Dicker

    CEO and Founder, Circular&Co.

    We’re here to help  

    Wherever you operate, Circular&Co. and City to Sea are here to help.  

    City to Sea works with hundreds of local community groups, councils and independent cafés to drive lasting local and national change. We have first-hand experience of running a returnable scheme, and with our award-winning Refill app, have a tech solution that could work for your organisation. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help get your returnable scheme off the ground. 

    If you’re looking for cups, support on delivering a full service, or a signpost for data partners, washing partners and future product development of returnables, Circular&Co. is on hand with the solution that could be right for your scheme. Following years of experience in this area, and two years of extensive R&D, they launched the first specifically designed returnable cup for the commercial market in early 2023. Contact the Circular Returnables Team for practical support on delivering an effective cup scheme.

    “Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen the launch of a number of returnable cup schemes across the UK – varying in size, delivery mechanism and impact. And at City to Sea, we’ve had a huge increase in the number of enquiries from the communities and businesses we work with looking for advice and support for how to get started and the most effective way to drive impact, which is what led us to create the blueprint. Ultimately, for returnable systems to scale and become normalised we need industry collaboration, with schemes operating citywide, at events and within the workplace. Our goal is to support the transition to reuse systems at scale by enabling and empowering organisations to create impactful returnable cup schemes.

    Jo Morley

    Head of Campaigns, City to Sea


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