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Smart returnable cup

Case Study: Reusable coffee cup solution

The challenge

In the UK, around 3 billion disposable coffee cups are discarded every year. Due to processing difficulties and low value of the recyclate, just 0.25% of them are recycled, with the vast majority going to landfill. The need for reusable cups has never been greater.

Returnable models offer one way of achieving this without impacting consumer convenience. But while many coffee chains have trialled reuse systems, the industry has yet to adopt reusable solutions at scale.

The solution

Pragmatic – along with sustainable drinkware specialists Circular&Co. and agile digital returns platform re-universe – has developed a smart reusable coffee cup solution that automates returns and smooths the path to sustainability. The solution uses near-field communication (NFC)-based tags and is powered by FlexICs, Pragmatic’s ultra-low-cost, flexible integrated circuits.

Smart cups powered by FlexICs bring intelligence at a fraction of the cost of traditional smart solutions, making scalable returnable models a commercially viable reality. End-to-end traceability helps to reduce loss rates and streamlining consumer returns positively impacts reuse rates – one of the major factors in determining the success of returnable solutions.

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Other benefits include:

Quick and easy returns

Customers simply scan their cup and drop it at an automated return point – no need for barista involvement. The unique ID ensures each item can be scanned only once.

Discrete application

FlexICs are embedded within the product – even on curved or domed surfaces – improving robustness without impacting product aesthetics. They can also be applied as a washable label.

Real-time tracking

Unique, asset-level ID gives instant data on return and reuse rates, helping to identify bottlenecks and understanding consumer return patterns.

Data-based insights

Data obtained throughout the value chain provides valuable insights for retailers and brand owners, and makes reporting easy.

Enhanced customer engagement

Rewards for consistent reuse can be sent to the customer’s mobile device, incentivising further returns.

Lower environmental impact

Circular&Co.’s cup contains just 0.16 kg CO2e, with each FlexIC adding less than 0.5g CO2e.

Learn more on the returnable cup solution