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Cleaning the oceans one cup at a time

Sam Stone and Christie Kamphuis have been close friends for a long time, and one of the pillars of their friendship has always been going to events together. “We always hated the overflowing bins, and walking over cigarette butts, chewing gum, and cups all over the ground,” Sam bemoans. “When we heard of a few niche events implementing reusable cups in Europe, we jumped at the chance to bring the idea here.” Fortunately, Sam says, she and Christie have complementary skills that have helped them make the best of being co-founders. “We take on different parts of the business without too much fighting over who does what!” Sam laughs.

Their business, Bettercup, provides reusable cups in various shapes for both rent and purchase to suit different budgets. “Clients can choose between our Bettercup branding or the branding can be customised to the event,” Christie explains. “We emphasise that the cups should always be designed with longevity in mind so that they can be reused many times,” she adds. So, they eschew branding that includes dates or other details that aren’t suitable for reuse, and after each event they service, they provide a report that analyses the amount of waste saved by using their cups compared to going down the single-use route. “This is a neat way for people to see how a simple change can have a huge positive environmental impact,” Christie explains.

Sam says that the scope for reusable cups is basically endless. “Any time you’re using a single use cup, you could be using a reusable one!” he says. Bettercup has been adopted as the provider of choice by local councils, stadia, universities, and breweries as well as many other types of events. “We offer cup washing, either on or off site, as well as end-to end consulting for those who want to implement their own reuse systems but aren’t sure where to start,” Sam says. “With reusables you’ll always get that extra labour factor, so we do our best to make sure our customers are prepared to either take that on themselves, or hand it all over to us.”

During 2020, Christie was the project manager on behalf of the Sustainable Event Alliance for the Global Reusables on that organisation’s Events Hygiene Project that led to the creation of a global working group made up of event industry, health and safety and sustainability stakeholders. “The guidelines detail the global best practices for implementing reusables consistently and safely at events and venues, and were released publicly in October 2020,” Christie says. “We also have an amazing partnership with Green Music Australia, a like-minded charity that harnesses the cultural power of the music scene to create a greener future. We’ve collaborated with them on a number of initiatives across various events in order to achieve the common goal – to reduce waste!”

Despite their work, the enthusiasm for it – Bettercup has recently expanded its operations into New Zealand – and the type of global initiative they’re involved with, Sam and Christie feel that the broader business community needs to go a lot further in the fight against single-use plastics, and waste in general. “At the moment it [waste] seems to be brushed off as a non-issue,” Sam says. “If businesses address this by highlighting areas where waste is a problem – even just by removing single-use cups and stirrers in office kitchens – then workers will start to think about the waste they’re generating and how they can mitigate against it.”

For her part, Christie believes that making informed, good environmental choices behind the scenes is just as important as what customers see up front. “Using ethical banks, suppliers with active sustainability policies in place and choosing local options wherever possible drive the necessary systemic changes we need for a sustainable future,” Christie avers.

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