With waste from single-use foodservice packaging contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and filling landfills every year, reuse and refill models offer a viable alternative to single-use––providing more durable options that can be used multiple times.

Reuse models move us away from a take, make, waste model of material usage, toward a circular economy in which goods and materials are reused and repurposed. Not only is it good for the planet––it’s good for business too. Converting 20% of global disposable plastic packaging into reusable packaging is a $10 billion opportunity.

And while reusable packaging is already well underway, it’s just the beginning. Reuse and refill models are poised for an even bigger future, with the potential for impact across multiple sectors and industries, laying the groundwork for a more circular future. 

Bringing Reusable Packaging Systems to Life: Lessons Learned from Scaling Reusable Cups


In our report, “Bringing Reusable Packaging Systems to Life,” we use reusable packaging as the starting point for exploring reuse models more broadly, and specifically, we explore reusable cup systems that could revolutionize the way we drink our morning cup of coffee or iced drink on-the-go. Through the efforts of the NextGen Consortium, we are testing, funding and scaling these systems. The report guides you through the learnings gathered thus far during this multi-year program, exploring the different facets of reuse models––and the systems within those models that produce, distribute, monitor, collect and sanitize cups to enable their use hundreds of times by as many consumers, across a range of differing environments. By sharing the learnings in the report we hope to provide you with guideposts, best practices, materials to consider and actions to take when thinking about partnering with or creating your own reuse system to advance the transition to the circular economy. 

Learn More

About Reusable Cup Systems

We begin our work with the cup. With 250 billion single-use cups sent to landfills each year, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and wasted energy, there is a significant opportunity to reduce our waste by tackling this material first.

We work with reusable cup teams to explore potential applications, rethink consumer incentives and align operations to minimize disruptions and maintain a positive customer experience.

Through the Cup Challenge, we selected three reusable cup solutions that offer reimagined systems for renting, washing, tracking and redistributing reusable cups.

In early 2020, two reusable solutions took part in month-long pilots at independent cafes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

How to Set Reusable Systems Up For Success

  • Engage Diverse Stakeholders

    It takes a village

    A reusable system is possible, and success is tied to collaboration.

    Creating a reusable cup system requires collaboration amongst diverse stakeholders – customers, businesses, staff, logistics providers, and the cities they live in determine a reusable cup program’s success. Each stakeholder is different in approach and has a different role to play in the larger implementation of a reusable system.

    Show more
  • Make Sustainable Material Choices

    Built to last and to be recovered

    The number of times reusable packaging is used ties directly to its environmental impact, as does its eventual end-of-life pathway. Even the most innovative companies leveraging reuse models will require decommissioning after many uses so designing for recyclability is critical. Important considerations around end-of-life recovery pathways, how energy intensive the material is to extract, cost and customer happiness need to be weighed before scaled production begins.

    Show more
  • Select the Perfect Spot

    There are fundamentals to selecting a retail location and where the cup lives in-store

    Consider how retail locations provide convenience to the customer while also informing and connecting to the broader reuse system. Maximizing accessibility could mean considering proximity to transport hubs and retail density, among others.

    Show more
  • Choose the Right Payment Model

    Incentives, no hidden costs, or pay-as-you go

    Reuse models must be economically viable and sustainable long-term. In order to enable and encourage regular use of reusable packaging services, designing the right financial incentives, payment models and lost cup fee and accounting methods is paramount to success.

    Show more
  • Optimize Health & Safety Protocols

    Hygiene is essential

    Washing and sanitizing cups, lids, points of return and any other components of the reuse system is of extreme importance. Care should be taken across all stakeholders to ensure hygiene is being maintained at the highest standards.

    Show more
  • Measure Impact and Success

    Developing replicable standards and processes to measure impact and success

    As reuse models scale, building out a standardized measuring framework can help align the industry as a whole around important metrics, moving us forward collectively. After aligning on a standard set of metrics, benchmarking and baselining will help evaluate future progress and set attainable performance goals and targets.

    Show more
“We are on the cusp of a reuse revolution and expect to see more big innovations related to other applications, such as shopping bags and foodservice packaging.  Reuse will be a growing part of the plastic solution portfolio used by brands and retailers. It’s certainly not going to solve the whole plastic waste challenge, but as more of these models come to market, we are excited to see new solutions that collectively build reuse back into our cultural and behavioral norms.”
Bridget Croke – Managing Director • Closed Loop Partners