As more concert and venue operators look to reduce the amount of waste they create each year, plastic cups and straws have come under increasing scrutiny for the amount of damage they do to the environment.
More than 4 billion single use plastic cups are used every year at concerts, sports and other live events. But now a Minnesota-based company is working with bands like U2 to develop an alternative that creates zero waste, generates additional income for the participating venues and gives fans a souvenir they can take home. Launched in 2017, r.CupTM, is a rentable, reusable cup solution first test-piloted by Live Nation for U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour.
“We wanted to address the waste problem we have seen all around the world at our events once the lights came up”, said Craig Evans, U2’s longtime tour director. “U2 has a longstanding commitment to sustainability and have worked with Effect Partners for over a decade on greening innovations, so we were proud to help test the r.Cup solution on the 2017 The Joshua Tree Tour and carry it forward on the 2018 tour.”
Since its inception, r.Cup says it has displaced more than 500,000 single-use plastic cups at nearly 70 concerts and more than 50 venues across two continents and is being utilized by more than a dozen artists.
“The reality is, the recycling era, even with compostable cups, has run its course. While venues and artists have both invested a lot of energy trying to encourage recycling, unless it is hand-sorted, it doesn’t work at live events. And as a result, it’s simply not enough to address the plastic crisis plaguing our landfills and oceans,” says Michael Martin, founder/CEO of r.Cup. Martin worked on sustainability initiatives for nearly three decades through his firm, Effect Partners, which executed the initial trials for r.Cup before it was spun off as a new company.
“In our first year, we’ve already proven fans are ready to help, artists are hungry to do more and venue and concessions managers are more eager than ever to work towards minimizing their waste footprint,” he says.
The company received early support and encouragement from Guy Oseary at Maverick and r.Cup been used for select dates by artists like Bon Jovi, Radiohead, Rod Stewart, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Warped Tour and festivals like Camp Flog Gnaw and Farm Aid. The company creates durable cups branded for each event and provides the cups free to concessionaires, who then charge customers a $3 deposit when they buy their first beverage. At the end of the night, fans can either return the cup for a refund of their $3 deposit, or keep the cup as a take home souvenir — r.Cup and the tour share the money made from the deposits on cups that fans take home, and 10 percent of the proceeds go to charity foundations that invest in ocean plastic clean-up and research in alternative plastic solutions.
“We are in the business of producing spotless floors,” says Martin. “Not only is this a great solution for a tricky environmental problem, it’s a cost-saving and customer solution for the venue.”
Martin says his company staffs events to help train servers, collect dirty cups and pay back deposits to fans who want to return the cup. Last month it launched a trial of its new venue program with all concerts at Minneapolis’ famed First Avenue nightclub using r.Cup for all events. The company is also looking at launching a new plant-based cup product in the fall.