A new company called Vessel Works is attempting to change the game in the beverage industry. The idea is to get rid of the waste from single-use cups for hot and cold beverages by providing a reusable to-go cup in participating cafes.
Here’s how it works. The Vessel Works to-go cup is an insulated stainless-steel mug that will keep your beverage hot or cold. When you visit a participating location, you can check out one of the free, reusable mugs via an app and then later drop it off at a kiosk.
It is very similar to a bike-share program, and Vessel Works is hoping that it will be a popular alternative to the billions of paper cups that end up in landfills every year. It is also a solution that the company believes consumers will adopt more quickly than asking them to bring their own mugs from home.
“Getting behavior change to happen is not an easy thing,” says Dagny Tucker, founder of Vessel. “If we look at a community that’s considered very sustainably-minded, i.e., Boulder, Colorado, you’ll find that in a survey of local cafes, less than 10 people are bringing their own cup every day.”
According to Fast Company, Vessel Works chose Boulder, Colorado, to beta launch the idea with four cafes and they will later scale and add more. Consumers use an app to participate in the free program, but if they don’t return the mug within five days, there is a charge.
After running the pilot for several months at a few cafes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Tucker discovered that consumers liked the idea and it also led to people evaluating their choices for other single-use items.
As consumers use the mug, they will get reports on how much they are reducing their carbon footprint and how much waste they are preventing.
Tucker ran a pilot program for this idea in New York City back in 2016 while teaching at Parsons School of Design. She noticed that the paper cup was the most highly visible sign of disposability, with every fifth person walking down the street carrying a paper cup for a few minutes and then throwing it away.
There are no upfront costs for a consumer to use the program, and the cost to participating cafes for each mug is less, on average, than what they pay for paper cups. The mugs are also easy to stack and store, and Vessel cleans all of the mugs at their commercial facility and then tracks them back to each cafe to maintain inventory.
Tucker says that essentially, her company is trying to “disrupt the status quo of an entire industry.”
Image via Vessel Works