February 10, 2024
5 min read
by Author
A guide on getting started reducing and reusing cup and lid options for your business.



Building a culture of reuse is easier than you may think, and most cafes start with cups. We’re here to help you without being overwhelmed.


While it is possible to eliminate single-use cups and lids altogether, many cafes rely on at least some single-use options. Reducing these is a good place to get started.

Ask customers to skip the takeaway lid

When you still use single-use cups, offer your customers to ‘go topless’ (skip the lid). You can put up signage encouraging this. We have worked with cafes who report a significant reduction in lids just from a sign on the coffee machine. If you give your customers permission to ask for no lid, they will feel more comfortable doing so. Your staff can also not (usually by default) put a lid on every drink, but instead ask your customers if they need a lid.

No takeaway for dine-in

Are your customers requesting takeaway cups and then dining in? Some people just like a lid to keep their drink hot. There is an easy solution, stock a few reusable keep cups (with lids) for those occasions. Your initial investment will save you money in the long run.


What are the options?

There are four main options for implementing reusable cups/lids in your business - Bring, Borrow, Stay or Sell.

  1. Bring (customer’s own cup) - encourage and accept clean BYO reusable cups.
  2. Borrow (from you) -set up a cup/mug library or cup swap system).
  3. Stay (dine-in) - encourage customers to dine-in and enjoy a coffee in a cup or a mug.
  4. Sell (customer buys a cup from you)- sell good quality reusable cups (can be branded).

1. Bring

Let customers know you will accept their BYO cups through signage near your POS.

Then encourage them to participate -  some ideas are:

  • BYO discount - you can make this the same or less than the price of the single-use cup to avoid any financial loss.
  • Introduce a ‘Latte levy’ - a surcharge on single-use packaging has been shown to be more effective in changing behaviour than a discount. This gentle encouragement directs customers toward reusable alternatives while positively impacting your costs. Consider starting with a surcharge for single-use cups for in-house consumption. If you prefer, you don’t need to increase your prices -  you can just separate the cost of the packaging out and give the customer the option of not paying for it!
  • BYO loyalty cards - Customers get their 10th drink free (or a discount) when they BYO cup or dine-in.
  • BYO happy hour - A set period of time (usually during the quietest time of day), when BYO is discounted.

2. Borrow

Cup/mug library - provide a library of cups or mugs that customers can borrow and return. This doesn’t need to be expensive - you can ask your customers to donate mugs, or purchase them secondhand. The initial set up can be as simple as a basket, shelf, or a wall with hooks, and signage. Cups that don’t come back can be replaced over time with new donations. Mug libraries encourage loyalty & repeat customers.

For high volume cafes - consider a cup swap network. This is a third-party system where cups are provided to you, and you offer them to your customers (usually through a deposit or app). Customers can return the item to any business participating in the network. Most systems charge a monthly fee (which is offset with a minimum usage) and provide marketing materials and on-going support.

3. Stay

Assess how welcoming your dine-in environment is - could you create a more desirable atmosphere? Additional comforts like coffee table books, newspapers, plants, ambient lighting, music, cushions, blankets, free wifi etc. may all encourage people to stay rather than takeaway.

A dine-in discount could also be offered.

A bonus is the opportunity to upsell “would you like another drink?”

4. Sell

Explore durable, branded reusable cups to sell as premium choices.

Encourage customers to take the initial step of buying a reusable cup from you by offering a free coffee with the purchase. Put these cups near the POS front and centre!

You can add on a discounted refill when they bring your branded cup back for refills.


Support your reuse initiative with the following actions:

Staff empowerment

Train your staff on the environmental impact of single-use items and the importance of reduced packaging and reusable alternatives. Their support will resonate positively with your customers. For example:

  "We’re championing reusable cups - did you BYO cup today?”

    "If you haven’t, we have a mug library/cup swap system you can use.”

Training can be included in the normal FOH induction procedures.

You can also encourage your staff to participate by having a ‘sustainable employee of the month award’ or a prize for which staff sells the most number of drinks in a reusable cup.

Guide sustainable choices

Additional incentives can really boost reuse with your customers. You can implement prizes, lucky draws, raffles, BYO guessing games etc. - this increases customer participation and generates positive community and environmental spirit around your business (and your customers will tell their friends about it).

Some ideas include:

  • If you have a mug library, have a ‘lucky mug’. One mug in your collection will be a free coffee, and you can promote this on your socials.
  • A raffle where customers who choose reusable options can put their business cards in.
  • Sustainable customer of the month award.

Monitor and adjust

Regularly evaluate the impact of your efforts and make adjustments as needed.

Celebrate and communicate your efforts

Recognise and celebrate milestones in reducing single-use items.

Utilise social media and other marketing channels to inform customers about your initiatives and achievements, and showcase your cafe as a leader in sustainability, attracting like-minded customers.

By implementing some of these straightforward measures, you can actively contribute to a more sustainable future while fostering a positive reputation within your community.

‍‍If you’d like more detailed information and implementation guides for each reusable option, see our guide library.

Please note: the content of this guide is the advice of Boomerang Alliance. It may not reflect the view of your state government and you are encouraged to seek your own independent advice. Boomerang Alliance is an impartial non-profit organisation, and we don't benefit commercially from any information we provide, or brands or products we identify.

Cold cups
Cold cup lids
Hot cups
Hot cup lids


Cold cups
Cold cup lids
Hot cups
Hot cup lids

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