Coffee minus the footprint

By David Schout

The shift to reusable coffee cups has been a step forward in the war on waste – but what if you leave your trusty cup at home?

Fortunately, one new Melbourne initiative targets those forgetful types still eager for a flat white and a clear conscience.

Lily Yap and Benjamin Korff launched Viva la Cup in July 2018 as a scheme for coffee drinkers to borrow reusable cups and return them or swap them at another cafe.

And with a handful of CBD cafes already on board, the couple has big plans for the future.

“I think a lot of people have started to make positive changes, but there’s still a lot of awareness to be raised with waste and plastic use,” Ms Yap said.

Users can purchase a coffee and pay a $10 deposit for a stainless steel cup. 

When they’ve finished, they can return the cup to the same cafe or another within Viva la Cup’s growing network, and get their deposit back.

The cup is a slick double-walled stainless steel design, something that was important in the initiative’s infancy.

“We were very keen for a quality product, that people will value and not throw away,” Ms Yap said.

“We chose it for its durability, design and the fact it doesn’t impact the taste of the coffee, which is very important for coffee drinkers in Melbourne.”

Speaking to CBD News at Kings and Knaves Espresso on William St – one of several CBD-based cafes in the Viva la Cup network – Ms Yap said they hoped to have 100 cafes on-board at this time next year.

Helped along with financial backing from a City of Melbourne small business grant, she said Viva la Cup had now decided to scrap its small membership fee for cafes that stock its cups. 

Ms Yap, an engineer, said the pair was inspired to go “zero-waste” after living abroad.

“We were living in the Philippines and we saw a lot of waste in the rivers and oceans, and it really motivated us. In Australia you don’t necessarily see waste. It gets collected every week and you don’t see what we’re actually generating to the toxtal (waste) amount.”

She said that while starting a social enterprise was undoubtedly time consuming, it was important to remember why you started it in the first place.  

“You draw from it the rewards,” she explained.

“If you’re doing something you love and that you’re passionate about and want to see impact, then you’re more likely to continue the cause. For us, it’s about managing the time and stress of it, but also finding the real benefit and reward you get from it. It’s our passion for creating that impact.”

She said the willingness of Melburnians to adopt reusable cups as part of their daily routine was proof that behavioural change was wholly achievable. 

“Being zero-waste [advocates], we know we can do it, and can make the change to reduce waste, so we really just want to help others to do the same. As a society we can reduce a lot of waste with small changes in our lives, and that’s what we’ve realised and what is our driving force. We want to create this better world with less trash and landfill, and the only way to get there is creating systems that help people to get there.”

“I think a lot of people have started to make positive changes, but there’s still a lot of awareness to be raised with waste and plastic use.”

For more info, or to sign up your café to the Viva la Cup network, visit

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