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Helping cafes form the habit of reusables

They say it takes takes 21 days to form a new habit… and what better habit can we get into than ditching the single-use and using reusables!

This year, we were inspired to trial a new coordinated pilot project across our Plastic Free Places communities, from all corners of Australia.

From the 8 - 29 January (that’s 21 days in case you’re wondering) we worked with nine amazing cafes in Cairns, Townsville, Byron and Perth to supercharge and normalise the number of customers using reusables, culminating in #UseYourOwnCupDay on Friday 29 Jan. 🙌

Each week, these cafe's tallied how many of their customers used reusable cups, with the goal to see the percentage of reusables increase each week as their awesome customers started to form the new habit of reuse.

On #UseYourOwnCupDay, we worked with them towards achieving the highest number reusable cups possible, which for some meant no takeaway coffees in single-use cups!


As part of the campaign, we worked with our cafes to encourage and support their customers to increase reusables by:

  • displaying “Reusables Preferred Here” posters so that customers felt comfortable to BYO.

  • having a conversation with customers about the campaign, or simply mentioning that reusables are welcome.

  • implementing reusable coffee cup swap systems which allow customers to borrow and return reusable cups.

  • implementing a mug library for customers to borrow a mug and return it on their next visit.

  • offering free coffees or discounts for customers who brought their own reusable cup.

  • selling their own branded reusable cups and offering the first drink for free.

  • stamping their single-use cups with a reminder for their customers to BYO next time.

  • promoting their efforts (and that of their customers) on social media.

  • encouraging customers to take selfies with their reusables, with hashtags #byoselfie and #byomugshot.

  • inviting local social media influencers to take selfies with their BYO cups.

  • encouraging customers to take ‘me-time’ and dine-in if they forgot their own cup.

  • displaying tally boards indicating that they were aiming to beat their current numbers of reusables.

  • Allowing customers to participate by chalking up their own reusable cups on tally boards.

  • holding competitions with prizes for repeat customers who who were the most consistent at using their own cups.

  • promoting reusables for other items than just takeaway coffees.


There was a marked increase in the use of reusables for ALL cafes involved. Results were:

Plastic Free Cairns

with @blackbirdwarehouse

The % of customers who had their drink in a reusable cup (includes dine-in figures):

1. In week one, 55% of cups used at Blackbird were reusables.

2. In week two, 56% were reusables.

3. In week three, 63% were reusables.

On ‘Use your own cup day’, 73% of customers used their own cup, borrowed a reusable cup or dined-in.

“Participating in the event prompted us to have a look at our ordering history. We waste 189,000 pieces of single-use takeaway coffee cups and lids a year, and could save up to $13,000 yearly across both of our stores if we promoted a greater focus on reusables.”

Blackbird Cafe Cairns


Plastic Free Townsville

Increase in the number of reusable cups used, by comparing the last week of the campaign to the first:

“We had an amazing Use Your Own Cup Day! We are very excited to see how the numbers increase over the coming months of 2021. We are always so happy to see our customers bring in their reusable cups and we highly encourage it.”

Specialty Coffee Trader, Townsville

“Some people didn’t know that we accepted reusable cups and started bringing theirs in once they saw the signage that reusables were preferred, and staff just mentioning it to regulars also helped.”

Tasha’s Place, Townsville


WA Plastic Free

with @sondercoffeeperth

The % of customers who brought their own cup (excludes dine-in figures):

1. In week one, 17.5% of customers.

2. In week two, 20.3% of customers.

3. In week three, 21.2% of customers.

On ‘Use your own cup day’, 100% of customers used their own cup or dined-in.


Plastic Free Byron

with @buncoffee.

Whilst data was not gathered, Bun Coffee reported that a number of regular customers have made the switch across to reusables cups, eliminating their daily single-use habit.

Not only this, but also the number of customers bringing along their own jars when purchasing Bun’s on-site roasted coffee beans increased.

Follow up from the campaign showed many more daily regulars converting from single-use to reusables as a consequence of the increased attention to this issue.

“Talking to our customers and especially our regulars, we're loving that they are trying hard to always bring their own cup. We've definitely seen an increase in reusable cups, and by us taking the opportunity to set up a mug library, we have seen those numbers further increase”

Bun Coffee, Byron



Across Australia, 2.7 million single-use throwaway cups are discarded every day. They cannot be recycled in kerbside collections due to their plastic lining. They contaminate the recycling stream, end up in landfill, or worse, in our environment.

Our throwaway culture devalues all of us... everything and everyone 😢. We want to build a reuse culture and show that reuse is possible and more beneficial than single-use to businesses and our communities.

The concept of a ‘Use Your Own Cup Day’ was inspired by UYO.NZ which started in New Zealand in 2018 and we’re excited to bring it to Australia.


We were so blown away by the feedback that we developed a toolkit so other cafes can follow suit, increase their use of reusables, reduce their costs and the impacts their business and customers have on our environment.

We each have the opportunity to make positive changes this year, we just have to make a start. ⁣We believe BYO reusables shouldn't just be one day of the year, it needs to be every day.. we just need to create the habit!

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