In 2018 Marek attended a streetfood festival in Tallinn where single-use plastic cups were replaced by reusables. However, the solution was far from ideal. “It interrupted vendor sales”, Marek says. “Counting the cups manually and collecting the deposit was difficult. “
Cuploop came up with the idea of solving the problem with RFID technology. Tags would be too expensive for single use items, but they make a lot of sense with reusable cups with up to 100–500 circles before recycling. So, the Cuploop team organized a test event in Tallinn.
“We bought 15 000 cups and tagged them with Confidex tags, each cup having a unique ID”, Marek remembers. “We also bought some hand scanners to see if the system would work as we saw it in our heads.” Turned out it did.
Sustainability and circular economy
Sustainability and reusability are on the rise, with the EU taking legislative actions against throwaway plastics, but many initiatives struggle with the last mile. Many Cuploop clients used to make their own manual solutions for reusable cups and takeaway food containers, with difficult deposit systems.
“We made it much easier, without disrupting the customer’s established behavior”, Marek says. “We want to make the returning of the package as easy as throwing it away. With machines on the streets and shopping centers, you can grab your reusable cup from Starbucks and drop it on the go.”
No scanning, barcodes or QR codes are needed. Thanks to Confidex RFID solution, the statistical data of when packages were sold and when they were returned is also available. With unique IDs, asset tracking through the whole chain is enabled: how many packages are in the shop, and which ones are going to expire soon.
“RFID has so many advantages” summarizes Marek Suchaževski. “For reusable packages it is the only possible direction”
Seen by many of their clients as the missing link in their service and COOP Estonia grocery chain piloting their machines, Cuploop is expected to grow rapidly.
“For us Estonia is more like a test field”, Marek says. “We already have some customers in other countries, Netherlands for example, where we landed with our collaboration with Confidex “
The Cuploop solution
After trying out many RFID tags, Confidex tags fit best for the purpose, combining RF performance and perfect adhesive. The adhesive was also perfect for their solution: the longer you wash the better it sticks. It also allows a wide temperature range.
Read range was a key factor: “You can read them from even nine-meter distance.”, Marek says. “For example, if at an event somebody throws a package in the bushes, we can scan them with hand scanners to find all the cups.”
In cooperation with Confidex, the company is also doing research on creating tags that are microwaveable – for the takeaway customers who want to heat up their food.
Towards more sustainable future
Marek sees there is a lot of unnecessary packing. “For example, in a grocery store small items like grapes and bananas are packed in plastic”, he says. “Kids’ toys are packed separately. This is insane.”
According to Marek Suchaževski, Confidex technology is a good example of how you can combine today’s technology with sustainability. He also gives credit to their Green Tuesday campaign:
“It’s a really clever idea and I really, really appreciate it. The Baltic Sea is a part of my home”, he says. “We need to start to take action to keep it clean for the future generations. Reusable items can also play an important part in this battle.”