San Mateo cafes launch cup lending service for customers to cut down on waste

San Mateo cafes offer cup lending service to cut down on waste

in A&E/Community

Four downtown San Mateo cafes are now participating in a cup-lending service for customers that aims to cut down on waste.

3 Bees Coffee (224 E. 3rd Avenue), Urban Ritual (140 B Street), Meet Fresh (227 S. B Street) and Heere Tea (253 S. B Street) are the first cafes to join the program — a partnership between the City of San Mateo and OKAPI Reusables.

“OKAPI is a simple borrow and return reusable cup service, featuring trendy insulated stainless steel cups for hot drinks and glass tumblers for iced drinks,” city officials said.

Here’s how it works: Customers join by downloading the OKAPI Reusables mobile app and by paying a one-time $10 membership fee. For a limited time, visitors at participating cafes can receive half off the membership fee. To borrow a cup, customers scan a QR code at the cafe counter. Cups are easily returnable at participating cafes by scanning another QR code at designated return bins. Customers can borrow up to two cups at a time and can keep the cups for up to two weeks.

Participating cafes provide no upfront investment for the reusable cups. OKAPI stocks cafes with enough cups needed to keep up with demand. Cafes wash and sanitize the cups following the same public health standards for dine-in reusable dishware.

For businesses interested in participating, potential funding is available from the County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability for businesses. Learn more here.

The initiative aims to reduce the waste created by the 120 billion disposable cuts discarded by U.S. consumers every year, according to the city.

David Zhou, owner at Urban Ritual, says his business always tries to be more environmentally conscious.

“Hopefully, as Okapi grows, a network of rotating cups will develop within the community and will further the reduction of waste, improving environmentally sustainability,” Zhou said.

OKAPI aims to bring additional San Mateo businesses into its network.

The initiative complements San Mateo’s Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance, which prohibits most single-use plastics at restaurants and requires compostable to-go products.