German start-up Recup aims to revolutionize the takeaway coffee market by tackling unnecessary packaging waste with a nationwide cup deposit scheme. A sustainable mission with a (caffeine) kick.

If Fabian Eckert had been easily discouraged, we probably wouldn’t have Recup today. Back in 2015, one of the 28-year-old student’s seminar tasks in Sweden included developing his own sustainability project. But when he came up with a returnable cup deposit scheme, his professor didn’t like the idea.

Reusable cups from Recup with local imagery
Reusable cups from Recup with local imagery.

Focused on his mission, Fabian Eckert decided to stick to his guns and contacted Munich-based sustainability crusader Julia Post. She, in turn, got Eckert in touch with business administration student Florian Pachaly who pursued a similar project at the time. Fast-forward a few months, and Pachaly and Eckert join forces for Recup. Today, the thriving start-up offers attractive reusable cups to caffeine fiends across Germany – with the help of a growing network of partner outlets.

 Fabian Eckert and Florian Pachaly, the foundes of Recup
Two minds, one idea: Fabian Eckert and Florian Pachaly of Recup.

Takeaway coffee: unintentional waste and pollution

Single-use coffee cups have a terrible environmental footprint. In Germany alone, according to German non-profit Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a staggering 2.8 billion disposable cups per year – that’s 320,000 per hour – add to the German waste problem. Since these cups are lined with plastic, they prove almost impossible to recycle. The sad annual impact of our on-the-go java addiction: 40,000 tons of waste, 43,000 felled trees, 1.5 billion liters of water, and 3,000 tons of crude oil. Imagine the scale on an international level.

Recup coffee cup standing on a coffee machine
Takeaway coffee – in a deposit cup.

For the fleeting pleasure of a mobile caffeine fix, many people accept the associated trash and pollution. According to Fabian Eckert, “the problem is that most people are simply not aware just how damaging these disposable cups truly are. They simply don’t think about it. With their takeaway coffee, they buy themselves a moment of me-time. En route to the next stressful task or encounter.”

Recup’s battle against disposable cups started in November 2016 with a pilot project in the German city of Rosenheim. Today, Recup is available across Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, and many other German towns and cities. A total of 978 cafes and bakeries have already joined the network – and counting.

Recup: follow the app

Since the idea behind Recup is deceptively simple, it’s sometimes hard to believe that no-one has put it to the test before. Recup simply supplies participating cafes and bakeries with returnable plastic cups (at one euro per cup) and charges them a participation fee of one euro per day. The cups are cleaned on the premises.

perosn using the recup app
The app guides you to the nearest partnering café.

Customers pay a one-euro deposit per beverage, refunded when they return the cup to any participating outlet. For added convenience, there’s an app showing the nearest Recup carrier.

Surprised by the positive response, Recup is already revising its goals. “In the short term, it’s our plan to reach 1,000 shops by end of May, 2018,” Eckert reveals. And in the long run? “To get rid of all disposable cups, obviously!” He laughs. “What else did you think?”

Click here for more information on Recup.