As we stop using single-use food and drink containers, Event Cup Solutions is aiming to meet growing demand for reusables with the sustainable help of Meiko cup and container washing systems.
Demand for reusable, washable cups, glasses and champagne flutes – and food containers – is set to rocket sky high as the UK catering industry eliminates single use packaging.
The requirement to offer reusables instead of single use is already in place in the EU and is coming to UK hospitality.
Quick service restaurants in Germany, France, Spain and The Netherlands are already serving up reusable containers and cups for instore consumption instead of disposables. These include the same QSRs with major stakes in UK catering. In 2024, this demand will be accelerated as reduction targets come into force.
What is happening in Europe will come to the whole of the UK. Scotland and Wales have already banned expanded polystyrene take-away containers, with Scotland’s ban coming into force in June 2022. The English government has also signalled it has the same intentions.
Reusable, sustainable and ‘circular’ will become the norm says Event Cup Solutions (ECS).
UK caterers are already ahead of the trend. Early drivers of demand are the events industry and stadia and some QSR operators have already run trials using reusables in the UK.
Reusables can be cost-neutral, ECS says. They eliminate the cost of buying disposables, cleaning, collection and disposal. Reusables save labour, boost sustainability, and provide a better service for the public.
ECS provides reusable cups, glasses, pints, tall glasses, champagne flutes, and food containers. Its service includes delivery, collection, washing and storage for the unbreakable, reusable plasticware.
ECS believes so strongly that the market for reusable food and drink containers in the UK alone is set to explode that it has invested in two of Meiko’s largest flight dishwashing systems, dedicated to reusable cup and container washing.
It chose two conveyorized Meiko M-iQ cup and food container washing systems, each of which washes, dries and sanitizes up to 15,000 cups per hour.
Working one shift of 8 hours, six days, the Meiko duo provide a capacity of almost a million cups per week!
The first machine is installed at Middlesbrough in the North East; the second in Oldbury in the West Midlands. With its own transport fleet and bases in London, the Midlands and the North, Event Cup is offering a nationwide service.
The vision that created a sustainable business based on reusables is that of John Reeves, Director, ECS.
Prior to launching Event Cup Solutions, John specialised in plastic disposables for over 30 years. He left to launch the Dtangle consultancy in 2017, which advises on EU and UK legislation covering packaging and single-use products.
But nagging away in the back of his mind was John’s belief that sustainable reuse was the way of the future.
“I had lots of relevant contacts, but I did not have logistics and infrastructure,” says John. Event catering hire specialist Les Vipond shared the vision for reusables and together the duo launched Event Cup Solutions, with Les undertaking the role of Operations Director.
“Caterers like single use because they are cheap and easy to use. Reusables, however, cost more to buy per cup and they present different logistical challenges. Many caterers hesitate to switch because they figure the transition will be difficult to manage and expensive.
“But caterers need to make the switch and what we have done is create a business model that takes away the complexity and provides solutions that work sustainably for everybody.”
The business model at ECS is based on cup rental, not cup sale, which incentivises cup retention and reuse. ECS rental price includes delivery, collection and washing.
In a marked departure from the culture established using disposables, Event Cup itself absorbs the cost of reusable cup losses, which unsurprisingly concentrates the minds of Event Cup staff toward minimizing losses.
Generic reusables have the least loss rate, so ECS launched the ONE Planet ONE Chance® Reusable Cup System alongside a choice of branded and unbranded cups.
Where appropriate, such as at the Goodwood Festival of Speed event, ECS provides a more involved service which allows bar operators to concentrate on pouring and selling, with no logistical worries about the thousands of cups needed every day.
Using its own staff at site, ECS made sure that 21 bars were fully stocked with cups, pints, spirits glasses and champagne flutes. ECS staff also collected the used cups and stacked them in boxes for washing.
To maximise collection and reuse, ECS signage urges the public to place their used cups in highly visible ECS collection bins.
“The cups, pints and champagne flutes used by Goodwood carried the ‘ONE Planet ONE Chance’ generic brand created by ECS,” says John Reeves. “They had previously used Goodwood-branded cups with a customer deposit scheme which led to time consuming accounting administration and a high loss rate.
“Our objective at ECS is to make things as simple as possible for the customer. So ECS absorbs the cup losses, not the customer, and we build that into the quote. Our business is about cup retention, which is why we work hard in educating users about returning the cups and to provide the bins which allow them to do so.”
The industry benchmark for losses in reusable cups is around 15%. John Reeves says using the ECS generic brand creates only 6% losses.
But some customers, such as football clubs, want their logo on their plasticware. Aston Villa developed its cup solution with ECS and catering partner Levy UK + Ireland. This aimed to remove 300,000 single-use plastic cups from the stadium over the course of a season.
Fans leave a 10p deposit for each cup, which is refundable on return of the cup, or the 10p is donated to the Aston Villa Foundation.
“It’s about creating savings,” says John Reeves. “The Aston Villa solution has generated thousands for their charitable foundation since the launch in February 2022.
“Fan feedback is positive; they get a better-quality cup. The club has achieved major savings because the amount of litter is much reduced, making cleaning up after a match quicker. This has further cut labour and waste disposal costs.”
Event Cup Solutions is part of the Brussels based 360° Foodservice organisation, which lobbies the legislators who are creating new rules and regulations covering reusables.
“360° Foodservice explains how the catering industry can use reusables so that any draft law is workable and therefore achievable,” says John.
New packaging law is coming fast! In Germany from January 2023 the German parliament has obliged caterers to offer at least one reusable alternative container for food and beverages consumed in-house.
By January 2024, it will be mandatory for European caterers including restaurants and QSR operators to offer customers dining inside the restaurant, the option of reusable packaging.
Washing reusables has been a specialism of Meiko for decades, the company is a major supplier to the world’s airline caterers who use the term ‘rotables’ for their reusable crockery.
ECS co-founder and Director John Reeves was in the fortunate position to be able to compare Meiko’s reusable washing system with that of other suppliers.
Event Cup Solutions chose Meiko because of these operational benefits: -
- The Meiko M-iQ dishwasher and combined drying section provide the highest volume capacity – 15,000 cups per hour/per machine – but took up the least space using the least resources, allowing ECS to build its case as ‘the most sustainable cup washing supplier in the UK’.
- Meiko’s M-iQ dishwasher and tailored washing belt meant Event Cup Solutions could wash more cups with less staff. ECS says it is saving 30% on its labour costs. Staffing post-covid has become a big issue. At peak times Event Cup can run double or triple shifts so a 30% saving on labour and management time has a big impact.
- Washing results are evaluated for quality and moisture, crucially important to ensure plasticware is stored without compromising hygiene. The Meiko machines ensure 0% residual moisture.
“Success for us is achieving these three criteria, so that our customers see that we have the most rigorous process to ensure hygiene,” says John Reeves.
“Event Cup Solutions has invested in the most efficient, state-of-the-art washing and sanitising machines in the country. We aim to be Net Zero by 2023 and Meiko’s energy efficiency, reduced water and chemicals consumption is a key part of achieving that goal!
“The Meiko washing process is fast which means all the plastics we use come out perfectly clean, completely sterilised and with 0% moisture.
“We can wash millions of reusable cups per week. Every cup looks like new and is perfectly sanitised. The thorough but quick washing process means polycarbonate cups could be washed up to 800 times before requiring recycling.
“The Meiko system leaves the cups cool to the touch, which means there is no risk of them sticking together when stacked.
“Meiko gave us a great deal including its new Meiko Active chemicals, which also help to build our Net Zero case and add to our sustainability.
”Our first cup washing system was installed at Middlesbrough and a second system is now installed at Smethwick in the West Midlands. Meiko has proved knowledgeable and helpful during the initial process of specification. They are also very responsive and quick to react if we have any issues.”
Watch the video interview here youtu.be/h56REq6lYgw