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KeepCup 'optimistic' despite 80% sales drop during COVID

·Environment Editor
·3-min read
KeepCup's Abigail Forsyth smiles while on a video conference.
KeepCup's Abigail Forsyth says Australians are now reflecting on the environmental emergency.

With Australia’s thriving coffee culture somewhat normalised after the interruption of COVID-19, sales of reusable cups are on the increase again.

That’s welcome news for KeepCup’s co-founder and managing director, Abigail Forsyth, who told Yahoo Finance her company was hit “really hard” when the pandemic hit.

“We’re a company that just had a reusable cup, so our sales dropped 80 per cent overnight,” Forsyth said.

As concern about hygiene spread, consumers switched back to single-use cups, and major retailers like Starbucks and McDonald’s ceased accepting reusable options.

This sudden shift in behaviour hit just as KeepCup was about to launch a new reusable product.

“Unfortunately for us we had a reusable bottle on the horizon,” Forsyth said.

“The other thing the pandemic did is slow down a lot of that innovation. The supply chain was interrupted, people’s offices and factories were interrupted.”

Why KeepCup is optimistic about future

Although the reusable revolution suffered “a dent”, Forsyth now believes there will be a “stronger rebound on the other side”.

While consumers were largely unaware of the term "single-use plastic" when Forsyth founded KeepCup in 2009, she believes lockdown has given Australians time to reflect on the negative impact disposable items have on our lives, and that’s left her “pretty optimistic”.

A composite image of a keep cup and a pile of disposable coffee cups.
When COVID hit, consumers ditched their reusable coffee cups due to health concerns. (Source: Getty)

“People have been thinking what life’s about, and hopefully coming out of that is this sense of urgency around biodiversity loss, the environment, and what changes we need to make in our personal lives,” she said.

“But also the change business needs to make to drive reuse, that government needs to make to ban problematic single-use plastic.

“Certainly with our change of government here, there’s a renewed focus on that, which is pretty hopeful.”

Hidden material inside paper coffee cups revealed

While most Australian coffee lovers are aware their disposable coffee cups are made of harvested trees, there’s another surprising material used to help seal them.

“It’s actually like drinking out of a plastic bag, [because it has] a really thin polyethylene lining,” Forsyth said.

While there are now compostable and biodegradable alternatives, she said single-use remained “the enemy”.

“It’s the resources used to make and transport something you only use for 30 seconds, three minutes and throw it in the bin,” she said.

“That behaviour worldwide has got to stop, and we’ve got to find new ways to consume.

“When you see photos on Instagram … of people enjoying life and having a great time, they’re rarely drinking out of single-use items. Our mental picture of a quality life is not a throw-away culture.”

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