February 25th, 2023
Cercle has developed a simple reusable cup system for workplaces with a great user experience.
People can use Cercle cups and drop them off at Drop Pods from where they are collected, washed and placed back to be reused.
Since April 2021, they have prevented 129,596 coffee cups from entering landfill from a handful of cafes and office buildings.
How good would it be if you could have your daily coffee knowing that you don’t need to wash your cup or having to resort to using a single-use cup that ends up in landfill?
Reusable coffee cup system creator Cercle is making it convenient and easy for coffee lovers to reduce their impact on the environment. The concept is simple; Cercle supply reusable cups that can be dropped off and forgotten about after use. They then collect, wash and restock these cups back on the shelves ready to be reused.
We sat down with Patrick, the co-founder and designer of Cercle, to learn about their scalable, circular coffee cup process and how they are helping workplaces reduce their environmental footprint.
“Cercle is a free to use, reusable cup system for workplaces. Having witnessed the frequent use of disposable cups first-hand, I decided to team up with a cafe owner to address this problem within my own workplace by creating a circular, scalable reusable cup system with a great user experience.”
“We believe that converting to circular solutions is the best approach we have to improve our environmental performance. While Cercle has focused on the humble coffee cups, there are no shortages of ways of circularity that can be applied into other challenges that utilise modular and local manufacturing opportunities to reduce our environmental footprint.”
“Primarily we design out disposable coffee cup waste by converting them to a reusable alternative. The principles of circularity also drive the wider design of our system; such as using existing products as opposed to creating new ones and designing for modularity where we can scale and descale easily.”
Disposable cups are the pinnacle of inefficient use: take a virgin material from one country, use it for 15 minutes, then sending it off to landfill, which is not good. We need to find a better way to use our resources.
“We designed a reuse system that was easier to use than a disposable cup. It required a lot of design work centered around the convenience of users and partnering with motivated buildings and cafes. We are entirely free to use and don't rely on a user installing an app or paying a deposit - both things which could put a lot of users off. As a result, we have been able to achieve mass adoption in the buildings where we operate.
Once the Cercle cups are used by anyone, they can drop them off into the Cercle Drop Pods in their workplace and their job is done. We collect those cups, wash them and send them back to be reused.”
“We spent a lot of time talking to people, cafes and building cleaners as they are paramount to our operations. We also had to go through many bins to quantify the disposable cup waste and make sure we really understood the problem we were trying to solve.”
“We had to make sure our assets worked well within the system we had designed and focused on a lot of in-situ testing and revisions to make sure everything worked. To create the look and feel of the system and reuse existing products, we had to engage a few suppliers in rebranding their assets. It took a long time but once they understood what our intentions were and the impact it would create, they were keen to be involved.”
“The main challenge in bringing this idea to life is the economic one. We are very used to the pricing points of mass produced and single-use products that are usually very cheap. Collecting, washing and returning cups requires effort and money; but this is also an opportunity for us to create a best-in-class system which is efficient enough to be adopted worldwide.”
“Having partners who really understand our operations and requirements to implement our system and those that are better informed makes it easier to establish the Cercle system. We give them a real-life demo of how Cercle works, walking them through every part of the process.”
“Circular economy start-ups are super hard. The economics are not in your favour so it is important to start small, keep testing everything and stay focused on the longer-term goal.”
“We originally had a really simple goal of diverting 1,000 disposable cups per day and met this goal mid last year. Since our inception in April 2021, we have prevented 129,596 coffee cups from entering landfill. Our goal is to expand the number of operational buildings with mass diversion rates and work with larger high-density locations such as airports and shopping centres to increase our impact.”
“One benefit we didn't plan for is the improved user experience reported by users for our system. We are providing people with a means to have a better cup of coffee by using a high-grade stainless-steel cup. They also feel better about it because of the lower impact on the environment, which is inspiring to see. Beyond diversion of disposable cups, we are keen on finding a solution for zero impact washing and building locally recycled materials into our products and we are working with some exciting partners to make this happen.”
“We have a direct waste to landfill avoidance and reduction in single use imports, however, there is also a large awareness impact amongst our users of the importance of circularity and how it can play a role in other products/services. The social benefit in transitioning labour from waste removal to operating a circular cup system within buildings has been huge. Our first building has been operational for 18 months and over 65,000 disposable cups have been diverted from this site alone.”
“We want to be able to activate champions to implement their own reusable systems. This means making our assets accessible in different arrangements and being flexible with our implementation approach.”
“If there is somewhere you think Cercle could work, let us know or share our details with your building owner/cafe/office/shopping centre/airport. All of our sites have started from one simple conversation or introduction from someone. Learn more about Cercle’s hassle-free reusable cup at https://www.cercle.com.au/”