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Innovative cafe operator picks £350K for self-scanning chipped reusable cups


A café operator who set out to find an alternative to single-use coffee cups has helped to develop a new re-use system that claims to be simple and cost-effective to date.

Alasdair Hood and his team have raised £350,000 from angel investors to launch Delete Cups. The system has already been trialled in the two pop-up cafes he runs in Braintree Village, Essex – Roo and FryBaby – and the company is in talks with other potential users in the UK and Europe.

How does it work?

With current re-use schemes, customers typically have to download an app, register their details, pay a deposit on the cup then apply online to reclaim their money once they have returned it, or queue instore.

In contrast, with Delete Cups customer details are not required and the deposit is automatically returned to the customer’s account when they drop the cup into any collection point. Each cup contains an RFID chip and the system uses software that links this with the transaction at the till. The barista simply scans the cup when taking the customer’s payment and once the used cup is deposited at the collection point, the chip is detected and the payment is automatically refunded.

Alasdair joined forces with project manager Dominic Brady and software engineer Tommy Herbert to develop the system using equipment from RFID specialist CoreRFID to create a unique re-use system. They have now extended the current investment round and are hoping to raise an additional £150,000 to help fund the roll-out. Their company, Recirculate Systems, currently employs five staff and expects to create 10 new jobs in the year ahead.

Alasdair says: “Around 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year in the UK alone, with terrible consequences for the environment. The problem is that single-use cups are so convenient. While people like the idea of recycling, current systems involve so much time and effort that it deters all but the most committed.

“We set out to develop a re-use system that would offer the same convenience as single use. Delete Cups’ system is friction-free for consumers and baristas and helps reduce costs for vendors. We hope to play our part in getting rid of single cups altogether and powering the transition to a re-use economy.”

Richard Harrison of CoreRFID added: “RFID technology is ideal for re-use or recycling applications. Because of its ability to track items and automate processes, it is possible to design systems that are completely friction free. In this case there is no need for humans to handle and log each cup because the readers will automatically detect them and the RFID tags are robust enough to withstand boiling coffee or dishwasher cycles.

“Delete Cups offers a solution to the growing problem of throwaway coffee cups and we wish Alasdair and the team all the best with their new venture.”

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