Maker Series: KeepCup – Kokako Organic Coffee Roasters

Maker Series: KeepCup


From the outset, we have always been committed to quality, transparency and sustainability. Everything we do is focused on contributing positively to the specialty coffee industry and to ensure a sustainable and viable future for coffee producers. 

While Innocent Packaging supplies us with compostable coffee cups made from plants, not oil — we’re also aware of the limited infrastructure for accepting compostable packaging in New Zealand. As a coffee roaster, we see the single-use issue from another perspective, from the volumes of coffee we roast and this is the reason we’ve been KeepCup partners for the last 10 years. Our baristas know that once a coffee leaves the building more often than not our compostable cups may well end up in your general collection bin so unless the compostable infrastructure is improved we want to avoid this at all costs. Fortunately, the team at Commercial Bay have thought about this and have provided compostable cup collection bins throughout the precinct. 

We spoke with Abigail Forsyth — Co-Founder and Managing Director, KeepCup about reuse, plastic and corporate responsibility. And there’s a statement that KeepCup has been using since 2009, that there are “enough plastic in 20 disposable cups to make one KeepCup.” Abigail confirms this is still accurate today and it applies to their plastic Original KeepCup range.

Abigail explains, “the number scales up with the size, and it basically says, take a small KeepCup, 86g of reusable plastic.  If you weigh the polyethylene or PLA (plant-based plastic) lining plus the polystyrene lid of an equivalent size disposable cup —  20 disposables will be about 86 grams of single-use plastic. Abigail adds that the statement draws attention to the fact that it’s the volume of material, not always the material itself that is the real issue. Plastic, when used responsibly, is a valuable resource that is fit for purpose and can support reuse.” 

Introduced in 2009, KeepCup today has become a regular sighting on the morning coffee run — the original barista standard reusable cup offering a well-designed alternative to the disposable, single-use coffee cup. Founded by Jamie and Abigail Forsyth, KeepCup has become almost the generic term for “reusable cup” and has already offset hundreds of millions of disposable cups from being diverted to landfill. And while their plastic and glass vessels now retail worldwide, their polypropylene cups, plugs and lids are still made in Melbourne, as are their FSC-certified retail boxes.

Abigail admits that In the beginning, local manufacturing was about “reducing the environmental footprint of their products but it has turned into so much more.” And much like our design approach for Commercial Bay which was to connect the coffee producer with the coffee consumer, Abigail saw that local manufacturing had the ability to connect her product to its makers. “It’s about helping local economies, not just in the manufacture, but all the services that support it like, design, quality control, testing and assembly,”

The decision to integrate a wash station at Commercial Bay was a logical step. To encourage the habit of reusing, we have to make that action as easy as possible for people to participate. 

It was at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) in 2019 that we first came across the KeepCup Reuser wash station, trialled initially at MICE in 2013. MICE is known throughout the Asia Pacific as the largest dedicated coffee event; over 30,000 disposable cups are used over the four-day industry event, which is not insignificant. The Keep Cup initiated Salute the Reuser wash station provided a complimentary customer-facing rinse and wash service for all reusable cups, an initiative focused towards counteracting these high volumes of waste produced during the event. It also was an opportunity for KeepCup to engage with the public and encourage reuse and sustainability; celebrating those who have made reuse a habit. We loved the idea and have integrated a similar reusable cup wash station into our bar at Kōkako Commercial Bay. 

 At around this time, KeepCup created Re-Use HQ, to continue celebrating reuse and creating cultural norms. As Abigail explains, “this was an idea we implemented back in 2014 when we were trying to convey the aggregated impact of many small behaviours, like refusing single-use cups, particularly within organisations.” A new iteration of KeepCups’ impact calculator will launch online later this year.  

And like Abigail who believes strongly in the power of individual action, particularly to drive tipping points and cultural change, our focus for Commercial Bay had to incorporate incentives to encourage reuse. As Abigail explains, “we are now turning our focus to driving change in organisational norms  what does good corporate citizenship look like?  How can organisations drive change?” Starting with coffee cups might just encourage people to think more broadly about their consumption habits  taking those conversations back to the office. 

By providing a complimentary wash station for reusable cups we hope that the wash station will start conversations and change habits. We also hope to increase public awareness and understanding of the need to develop sustainable daily routines such as the act of reusing.  Commercial Bay will house some 10,000 workers in its immediate vicinity, many of whom will make that daily habit of grabbing their morning coffee on the way up to the office so we want to normalise and encourage reusable cups. 

Kōkako Commercial Bay will feature all the latest Keep Cup products including the new Thermal range, alongside classics such as the glass and cork with fresh new colour configuration options. 

If you frequent your local and find single-use coffee cups piling up in your bins at home or in the office you can browse our collection of KeepCups here. And if you own one already, good on you, the most sustainable reusable is the one you already own and use. 

With a continued focus on reuse beyond the coffee run, Abigail adds that KeepCup’s Plus range will “extend usage occasions with the same focus on drinking pleasure and parts that serve multiple functions.” Recently KeepCup has released KeepCup Thermal - vacuum-insulated stainless steel cups that keep your coffee hotter for longer. 

Find out more about KeepCup and their product range, including care guidelines on their website and for updates, follow KeepCup on Instagram.