Despite the pandemic derailing some momentum of reusable items, a Victoria company’s circular economy coffee cup has been able to expand its reach and waste-reduction product line.
Cousins Nancy Prevost-Maurice and Caroline Thibault launched The Nulla Project in 2019 and the company now has about 1,000 cups in circulation and is partnered with 15 coffee shop locations. The project offers java drinkers looking to lower their disposable cup waste a reusable mug for a $5 deposit, and then they can exchange it for a new one or return it and get their money back at any partnering location.
Nulla has signed on with a cafe at Royal Roads University and is hoping to do the same at the University of Victoria.
“Most partners keep ordering more and more cups because people are aware of the program now,” Prevost-Maurice told Black Press Media. “We really want it to be something that is inclusive and easy for people to access.”
Even if businesses use compostable cups, Prevost-Maurice said many of those will still end up in a landfill and there are communities that don’t have access to composting. Nulla hopes to give people an avenue to get their coffee fix without relying on single-use items at all, even if people forget their own reusable mug at home and need a zero-waste caffeine hit.
“Everyone thinks they’re doing fine by recycling or composting, but that’s not the case,” Prevost-Maurice said. “I think we all want to do better, I’m sure everybody wants to make impactful action, it’s just when we don’t know, we don’t know.”
If enough people can get on board, Prevost-Maurice hopes it will also help businesses cut costs by not having to buy so many single-use cups. The energy and resources needed to make disposable cups can be costly and harmful to the planet, she added.
“Just getting people to bring their own cup is a great way for coffee shops to save money. We want to create a community of zero-waste cafes that can work together.”
Nulla isn’t stopping at coffee cups, as they realized events and festivals use a huge amount of disposable glasses and there’s no real reason why you’d need a new cup with every drink. That’s why they got a Quebec company to make them a clear reusable glass that event-goers would get for a $2 deposit.
Using reusable is considered safe again in B.C. and Prevost-Maurice said it’s no different than going to a restaurant and using their kitchenware.
“People react and they’re like ‘Wow, that’s true, I don’t need to use five disposable glasses when I go to a festival,” she said. “It’s just changing the way to do business because it’s quite easy to go reusable.”
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