Deposit System for Bremen Coffee Cups

Every year, about 23 million disposable plastic coffee cups land in the rubbish – and that’s just in Bremen! That is quantity estimated by the Union for Environment and Nature Protection Germany (UNION). A group of seven master students at the University of Bremen’s Chair in Small Business and Entrepreneurship (LEMEX) would like to change this. As part of their course “Entrepreneurship and Management”, they developed a deposit system for reusable “to-go cups”. From January 17 to 24 this year, their idea is being tested in 14 Bremen cafés and bakeries. When the trial run of the system they call “Cup2date” is over, the students will evaluate the results with these partners and their customers to see what can be improved on. With the help of investors, they may then be able to market the system as an alternative to the usual disposable cups.

Sustainability in place of a disposable mentality

The idea for a sustainable coffee mug came to the students during the Bremen event “Start-up Weekend” 2017. Shortly afterwards, they started their first campaign in Bremen with a “Bring your Cup” day. On this action day, customers who brought their own cup with them received a discount on their “coffee to go” from the participating retail outlets. The project “Cup2date” builds on these earlier ideas.

Business student Walter Steinhauer developed the idea for the deposit system together with his fellow students. The "Cup2date" system uses reusable cups made of polypropylene (PP), a bisphenol A (BPA)–free, food grade, dishwasher safe and recyclable plastic. “It might sound illogical to replace a disposable paper cup with a plastic version,” says Steinhauer. “But disposable cups are not just made of cardboard – they have a plastic coating inside. That means it’s not possible to completely separate and recycle the individual components of the cup. That is also one of the reasons why the cups are so harmful to the environment.” The reusable cups are produced in Germany and can be used up to 500 times.

“During our test week, we do not use reusable lids for reasons of hygiene, but offer the conventional plastic lids,” explains Steinhauer's fellow student Merle Ridder. “Every customer can then decide for themselves whether they really need to take the plastic lid.” During the test week, people in Bremen can use the cups for a deposit of one euro. The participating bakeries and cafés are listed on the project homepage.

From theory into practice

Professor Jörg Freiling offers the course “Entrepreneurship & Management” in the master's degree program Business Administration every winter semester. Working in small groups, students have to develop a business concept. “Some ideas actually make it into the practice,” says Freiling. “The students gain contact with business partners and their customers right from the start. This allows them to test and validate their ideas in the market place. They sometimes reach quite amazing business maturity – like the team of ‘Cup2date’. They can already feel proud of that.” At the end of the seminar, the LEMEX Chair organizes a so-called “pitch”, during which the students present their projects and try to convince investors. The jury includes the Bremen University Initiative BRIDGE [promotion of entrepreneurial thinking, start-ups and entrepreneurship], the Kraftwerk City Accelerator Bremen, and Bremen business people. The event will take place on February 2, 2018, at 9.00 a.m. in Kraftwerk (An der Weide 50a, Bremen). Interested parties are cordially invited and asked to register by e-mail to thomas.baronprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de


The Chair in Small Business and Entrepreneurship (LEMEX) at the University of Bremen introduces students to the topic of business start-ups during their studies and supports them in the implementation of their business concepts. In addition, LEMEX researches transnational start-ups and drivers of the dynamics of start-up ecosystems. To promote networking with the practice, LEMEX – together with Jacobs University Bremen and the Bremen Chamber of Commerce – organizes the annual event Bremen Entrepreneurs' Day. The next event takes place on May 17, 2018.

If you would like to know more about this topic, feel free to contact:
Prof. Dr. Jörg Freiling
University of Bremen
Chair in Small Business and Entrepreneurship (LEMEX)
Phone: +49 421 218-66870
email: freilingprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de 

Merle Ridder
“Cup2Date“ project
Phone: +49 176 72135104
email: teamprotect me ?!cup2dateprotect me ?!.de

ToGo-Becher vor Bremer Rathaus
Cup2date - eine Alternative zu den üblichen Wegwerfbechern. Bis zum 24. Januar wird das Pfandsystem in 14 Bäckereien und Cafés in Bremen getestet.