Businesses worldwide are scrutinising their sustainability performances, not least because environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria are an increasingly popular way for investors to evaluate companies in which they might want to invest. Here in South Africa, 5Inc, a broad-based black economic empowerment and carbon management company, is providing people and planet-friendly solutions for clients’ ESG challenges.
5Inc’s latest project, reCUP, is a recycled paper mould, made from used, single-use, takeaway coffee cups, which is then filled with compost and vegetable seeds. ReCUPs are planted halfway down into the soil, and then watered regularly until the mould decomposes and the vegetable seedlings germinate. Each seed ball is handmade, providing work for the unemployed in poor communities.
Says 5Inc director, Yasmine Miemiec, “Our unique product turns non-recyclable coffee cups into pods of goodness that demonstrate a client’s commitment to environmental and social sustainability.
“5Inc is about solving problems. Some 500 billion coffee cups being produced annually around the world is a problem. Each cup takes about 50 years to decompose, creating an enormous environmental hazard. There are only a handful of specialised recycling facilities that can process used coffee cups, so the vast majority ends up going to landfill. Compostable cups, if not properly cleaned and composted, release methane, a greenhouse gas more toxic than carbon. So, 5Inc decided to think of an alternative. And that’s how reCup was born,” Yasmine explains.
“We’ve developed the prototype reCUP and created a business model. Now we are seeking corporate buy-in to this sustainability solution. Obviously, the big fast food outlets and coffee shop chains, like McDonalds, Starbucks, Motherland and Vida e Caffè, are the businesses for whom reCup would have a huge value proposition. We’re exploring that avenue now, and can provide options for client involvement,” continues Yasmine, “Be it as a rewards scheme for customers or as a CSI project.”
The reCUP process involves cup collection, the removal of the plastic lining which is then recycled, the pulping of the paper fibre and, lastly, the creation of the seed ball.
“The benefits of reCUP to those businesses that adopt this solution are manifold. Support of the reCUP initiative means customers don’t need to feel guilty about their ‘coffee to go’. They can sip away and know that they are helping make the world a better place: that they are spending money on a brand that cares, and that they are helping people earn a living.”
Says Yasmine, “If you are a business that wants a solution to your single-use coffee cups, 5Inc would be excited to talk to you. We can solve this problem together. You can find our contact details on our website or FB page.”
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