CHASING THE IDEAL CAUSE
With their IdealCup Stephanie and Nick Fry are on a mission to rid the country of single-use disposable cups that clog our landfills. And they’re finally making headway.
As a cause, this one’s right up there with the best of them.
New Zealand is a coffee-obsessed nation. We use more than 200 million disposable one-use cups and lids every year – the vast majority ending up in landfill.
In Motueka, IdealCup owners Stephanie and Nick Fry are leading the fight to reduce the number of disposable cups that pollute New Zealand’s environment and end up in landfills.
Their IdealCups are manufactured using just two materials. They are dishwasher safe, feature an innovative fin design to help with heat dissipation, and they can be used with reusable or disposable, compostable café lids.
The IdealCup story began in 2004 when Stephanie and Nick started their coffee roasting business in Wellington. At the time Nick was also a full-time firefighter.
Three years later the couple became involved in waste reduction – a cause sparked by a waste audit of their coffee business which revealed how much waste they were producing, particularly from disposable cups.
“We looked around for reusable cups already in the market and couldn’t find anything suitable. So we decided to develop our own,” recalls Stephanie.
After two years of development work, guided by the three Rs of waste minimisation (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), by the beginning of 2010 they were ready to launch the IdealCup.
“The original concept was for a cup and no lid,” says Nick. “The idea was the cup could be used with compostable lids. The cup was to be design-driven to reduce the number of materials used; a simple robust design that could be manufactured in New Zealand and recycled at the end of its useful life.
“Early feedback showed there was a demand for a reusable lid to be used with the cup so we developed our first reusable lid.”
To say the IdealCup journey has been fraught with difficulty would be an understatement.
First, there was the issue of finding a cup manufacturer who would use recycled plastic – and, just as important, one that could work with a small business such as IdealCup.
Stephanie and Nick have also been frustrated by the fact that most disposable compostable cups and lids end up in landfill, due to the fact that New Zealand has limited commercial composting facilities.
The IdealCup’s fin design is a clever way to dissipate heat – but the couple aren’t happy that other reusable cups in New Zealand use silicon bands imported from China to dissipate heat – bands that are not recyclable here. This requires an education process when marketing their cups.
In 2014 Stephanie and Nick moved to Motueka for a change of lifestyle. Nick had grown up there and it seemed the ideal place to raise their son.
By employing contractors they found it easy to run their business remotely, with just the occasional trip to Wellington for Stephanie.
The couple have been talking to the Tasman District Council and Our Town Motueka about their ‘ Make Motueka Disposable Cup Free’ ambitions.
“Our plan is to donate cups to local businesses so they can participate in the CupCycling Programme,” says Stephanie. “Hopefully this will encourage a positive uptake of our vision and we can really make some headway.”
The couple take a strong stance on social responsibility too.
“We give back to the community as much as possible,” says Stephanie. “Sponsoring and donating to events, not-for-profit organisations, education facilities and more.
Both Stephanie and Nick are proud of how they’ve stuck together through thick and thin – maintaining a strong marriage and driving the product and cause they stand for.
Various awards have kept them motivated too. In June 2015, they won the Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Awards "Minimising our Waste" award. Followed a month later by the Dominion Post Gold Awards "Green Gold" for Sustainable Business Practices.
The same year they attended the International Green Apple Awards where the IdealCup took out two awards.
Looking ahead they’d like to see the IdealCup become ubiquitous in New Zealand with people purchasing their personal cup for daily use, as well as groups buying the cups for the CupCycling Programme (see sidebox), which allows the IdealCup to be used with a disposable, compostable lid. Currently it's the only cup that can be.
Another goal is to have Motueka, Tasman and Nelson ‘disposable cup free’ within the next three to five years – and for IdealCup to be known as New Zealand’s ' go to' reusable cup brand.
There are even plans to expand their export capability.
No time to waste then.