When the Again Again founders looked at solving the single-use takeaway coffee cup problem, they realised the solution to waste was more than just customers using reusable cups.
While we may have the best intentions, many of us struggle to remember to take our reusable cups with us to the coffee shop and we have to make do with single-use cups that are bad for the environment.
Innovative Kiwi company Again Again came up with a solution designed not only to deal with the environmental impact but, more fundamentally, with human behaviour – the ‘aha’ answer for our forgetfulness.
In a nutshell, Again Again is a reusable cup lending and circulation system – if we forget our own reusable cup, we can pay a $3 deposit for a reusable Again Again cup, which can be loaned from any Again Again-affiliated café. Cups can be returned to the same or another café in the network for a full refund or can be swapped for another clean cup.
The convenience-driven system is designed to deliver a plastic-free, zero waste takeaway coffee experience.
Again Again arrived in Auckland in June, and already has 42 Auckland cafés signed up. With the help of a Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund (WMIF) grant, they are helping Aucklanders to cut back on the estimated 295 million single-use cups Kiwis send to landfill every year in Aotearoa.
“When it comes to takeaway coffee, we’ve found the problem is not simply a physical cup. If the cup was the solution, there wouldn’t be a problem anymore. It would have been solved when the first reusable cup went on sale,” says Amanda Lowe, Again Again Auckland operations lead.
"Our early research showed less than five per cent of coffees are served in reusable cups. The problem is actually human behaviour. We might own a reusable cup, but we don’t always have it with us when we want to buy a coffee.
"We are so entrenched in on-demandness so Again Again looked for a solution that provides customers with convenience and zero-waste takeaway coffee. At the point when a customer comes in and goes, oh I forgot my cup, Again Again means they can still actually opt away from single-use waste.”
The WMIF grant will help grow the network of Again Again cafés and allow more Aucklanders access to the service says Lowe.
What to know about Again Again
- Nothing goes to landfill – if any part of the cup gets damaged, you return it to any of the cafés and they will swap it out, Again Again swap it out for the café
- If you forget your cup, you can pay $3 to borrow another
- You can take multiple cups out and bring multiple back for a full refund
- You don’t have to clean the cup
- You can loan a cup without a lid, it costs $2.50 instead of $3 – in the future, you may be able to purchase your own lid.
One of the key benefits for customers is that it is cost neutral, says Lowe.
“If you loan a cup one day, then forget your cup again the next day, you can just pay $3 for another cup. When you remember to bring your own cup and return the Again Again cups, most likely when they are stacking up on your desk, you can bring them back and get all the deposits back.
"Having that kind of multi-out, multi-refund system is the part that really plays to the convenience side of things. You might forget the cup, but that’s okay because you’re going to get your money back on it anyway.”
Keeping the price of the cup down was also key to ensure it was affordable for cafés and customers to opt into the system and become part of the Again Again network.
“Stainless steel was chosen because it is not only robust, but it actually closes the loop at the end of its life. It’s valuable, recyclable material in Aotearoa and each new cup is made with over half recycled stainless steel.”
The cup comes with an exchangeable, corrugated cardboard sleeve, which is 100 per cent recyclable. The silicon lids seal well and keep the whole unit doing its job for as long as possible.
Cafés that join the Again Again network pay a membership fee, based on coffee volumes sold.
“At the highest tier, a café only needs to loan the equivalent of about 20 cups per day and they have covered their monthly fee – for smaller volumes it’s only 10. If cafés can switch 14 per cent of customers to using Again Again cups, they start breaking even on the cost of single-use cups. Everything after that is exponential savings.”
Lowe says the system is working well with attrition rates much lower than the expected 40 per cent – in the vast majority of cases, customers are loaning and returning the cups.
"We believe the tide of awareness is enough now that people understand the importance of bringing the cups back. Every cup in the system will count," she says.
“There will still be people who want to keep the cup. But the cup is worth $3 and, at some point, if somebody leaves it in the wild, it’s like the soda bottles of old. Somewhere or some way, somebody is going to say, ‘this is worth $3 to me’ and bring it back to the system.”
She says Again Again is a shift in mindset – a whole new concept, not just another reusable cup. “It’s going to take a while. They might hear the message, but it might take time for the seed to grow. Something like Again Again needs to be a groundswell from word of mouth - people talking about how it works and why it’s worthwhile. Our goal is to end single-use waste and support guilt-free, environmentally responsible, on-the-go coffee culture.”
Click here to see Auckland cafés in the Again Again network.
If you are a café owner interested in joining the network, visit Again Again to register.
Have you got a great zero-waste idea?
Applications open 1 September for Auckland Council WMIF grants of up to $50,000.
If you represent a business, local iwi, or an education or community group with a project that will help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, you could be eligible to apply.