Saving the planet one cup at a time

A RENT-A-CUP start-up is hoping to dramatically reduce landfill by doing away with single use, takeaway coffee cups.

With an estimated one billion plastic-infused cups going to landfill in Australia every year, it’s time for lateral thinking, says Northbridge resident Laurence Hellmuth.

“[They] are causing environmental problems that will last for generations, for a product that is only used for minutes.”

Inspired by a similar scheme in Freiburg, Germany, he and wife Nordine started RTRNA (returna), a reusable coffee cup network, popping up in an increasing number of cafes across the metro area.

• Lizmar Fonseca. Photo by Jenny D’Anger

Waste crisis

“Created from a desperate need to do something about our reckless use of resources, reliance on single use consumable products and the Australian waste crisis,” he says.

A growing number of people take their own cups, but more is needed, Mr Hellmuth says.

“It … relies entirely on the customer having to remember to bring their own cup and having to buy one in the first place.

“Our research tells us that people hate having to carry their cups around and that they frequently forget them.”

Instead they can “rent” a cup for their coffee from participating cafes for a refundable $5 ($3 without a lid).

Drink it immediately, or return it to the cafe, or an other member eatery later and the $5 is refunded.

The returned cup is washed and ready for the next customer.

A number of local cafes have signed up, including Hilltop Coffee in Hilton and Threeo Coffee and Micro Lote Coffee in Fremantle, and Little Olive Leaf and 2 Green Fingers in Willagee.

Lizmar Fonseca and her husband recently took over the Pakenham Street Micro Lote, and with a strong environmental ethos were quick to sign up.

“It’s a good alternative to not using take away cups and to help with the environment,” Ms Fonseca says.

RTRNA cups, and lids, are made from high grade plastic, which unlike regular plastic lids, doesn’t react to heat, giving off harmful fumes.

And rather than being “down cycled”, it can be recycled: “Keeping it in the loop to be made again,” Mr Hellmuth says.

For more info or to sign up go to 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s