2GoCup- reducing single use cups and increasing sustainability in the coffee sector

You often hear of the problem of single use plastic. However another issue Kevin Murphy spotted was good quality compostable paper cups been thrown away by the consumer. He created 2GoCup a reuseable cup solution for coffee shops and other retail outlets to reduce the amount of cups going to landfill and increase sustainability in the coffee shop industry.

  1. What was your background before becoming an entrepreneur?

I probably have a slightly more unique situation where my background doesn’t have much length to it! I started 2GoCup on the back of my third year placement in college, and I didn’t exactly plan for it. 2GoCup started as a solution for the current company I was working in, where I felt sustainability could lead to cost-savings for the business. I fell down a rabbit hole of reading EU policy, learning about the Circular Economy and working closely with the Director of Sustainability for my own college, DCU. Before I knew it I was finishing my final year having developed the first Deposit & Return System in Ireland – it made the news in nine different countries around the world.

  1. To someone who isn’t aware, what does 2GoCup do? What problem are you solving?

I always like to describe the problem first, so people understand why we exist. There are 500 billion single-use cups used globally every year. Closer to home, it breaks down to 200 million here in Ireland or 550,000 every day. Less than 1% of these are actually composted, recycled, or correctly broken down. The other 99% end up in landfill or incineration. 

Now the obvious solution is a reusable cup, a ‘keep cup’ that you carry around 24/7 but the reality is 7 in 10 of us now own one of these and only 3 in 10 actually use it. It isn’t working.

So how 2GoCup works is simple – when you get your coffee (whether that be in your local cafe, organisation canteen or even a local event), nothing changes. You’ll order, pay, and then pay an extra €1 for your 2GoCup. Then enjoy your coffee. When you’re ready, drop the cup back to any participating location and either get a fresh cup with your next order or your €1 back. We now have over 175 locations across Ireland and The UK.

  1. What benefits does this have for both the retailer and the customer?

What we try to do is four key things across all areas of the business – our core values:

  • We have to be cost effective for every business – We have a minimum financial saving of 75% compared to using single-use cups. 
  • We have to be affordable for every consumer – sustainability should not cost you more, you can always get your €1 back. 
  • We have to be just as convenient as paper cups for society – so no change to how you get your morning coffee. 
  • We have to be a net benefit for the environment. – Each 2GoCup can reduce over 1000 single-use cups from landfill.

4. How did you go about creating and launching the business? What 3 pieces of advice can you give to a budding entrepreneur?

I spent quite some time considering this if I’m honest. Remember, I had no background in product development, knew little about sustainability and from the outside I entered a market with a very dominant competitor, be it the paper cup or the reusable cup – all while still in college. But if there is any three pieces of advice I can give it’s probably  

  • Do your homework first. Understand what exactly you’re trying to achieve (even broadly). Where is the need? Are you a solution to what is available? Who else might have their eyes on the same thing you do. That never ends either, you must keep learning, since you must keep planning. 
  • Current Affairs are important. I rarely see this get mentioned but it has been extremely beneficial to me. If you know what’s going on in the world, in detail, you’ll understand why ‘people aren’t buying right now’, markets that are opening up, how and what is affecting either your product or customer pipeline essentially. Outside of my day-to-day sports and hobbies it is my number one priority. Read/listen to as much as you can. And finally, 
  • Go for it! You won’t know until you start, and be prepared for the road to change rapidly early on (even with all that homework done!), but experience is crucial in any walk of life and it is no  different in building a business. Learn your lessons, keep an open mind and always be prepared to be wrong (although listen to your gut at every corner).

5. How successful have you been so far? What are some of the highlights?

I wouldn’t describe myself as successful – not by any stretch. There is a lot more I want to achieve so although we are making a difference I always have our eye on the future. To mention some of my own highlights, naturally building the first pilot ever in Ireland (2019) and the impact it had was amazing. I went on to advise ZERO WASTE SCOTLAND, a group working for the Scottish Government and debated Keepcup on reuse initiatives at a national conference over there all in the same year.

Since, I’ve been named a Climate Ambassador for Ireland by An Taisce, ‘One to Watch’ Business All-Star, DBIC Founder of the Month, Appointed to The Global Emergency Reuse task force during the pandemic, Early Stage Startup of the Year runner-up Ireland, ClimAccelerator with the EU Stage 2, rebranded the business and built a second product while raising funding and gained HPSU by Enterprise Ireland. 

My own significant highlight is an invite to Leinster House (Government buildings) by Minister for State, Ossian Smyth in May 2022. We discussed the upcoming taxation on single-use products, the work of Government, met with Dublin City Cllr’s and the environmental action taken by Leinster House catering already. Not many businesses would get that opportunity, nevermind a startup.

6. How did you go about building out your team? Are you looking to hire in the near future?

I’ve worked with some amazing people over the past four years, directly and indirectly. What I always try to consider when hiring is if they’ll offer something different. What we do has a lot of moving parts and by extension we could be working with a large multinational organisation right down to joe’s coffee in a rural town, sometimes even within a day. What I love to see is a history of independent work, ambition/go-get-it attitude and teamwork – those things always give me confidence when the workload grows. 

I can honestly say I fell into the Steve Jobs mindset (when he went back to Apple) that a small team of brilliant people can achieve much more than a large team of average people. I feel very lucky I have the right people here in the team right now – but I never rule out taking on someone who will offer something different!

7. You do a lot of marketing through your video, social media and blogs? What do you find works best? 

A collective effort, marketing is a complicated art. What we try to do is showcase to the entire hospitality sector that there is a benefit to our system regardless of who you are. We’ve noticed the best success or response rate is in videos, but that’s probably just where society is right now, you know? The growth of visual demand really connects with the user – Tik Tok and Instagram Reels being good examples. But again, we could line up ten companies and ask what made them switch based on our marketing and get ten different answers!

Thankfully, 2GoCup has featured in most of the major papers here in Ireland and a combination of national and local radio stations. These have been a big help in spreading the word.

8. What impact did pandemic have on the service? 

It affected us so much you’d nearly need a separate article for this!

9. Are there any other businesses in Ireland in the sustainability market in Ireland that you are big fans of?

I have to say compared to when I started there are so many more emerging businesses I’ve been impressed with. ReFunk. are certainly one that immediately comes to mind, I think they have a real opportunity to showcase to Ireland that there are lots of opportunities in the furnishing + circular economy space, especially building in the technology they have in their plans. The startup ecosystem in Ireland is getting lots of credit for the emergence of supports/accelerators/space to grow but (in my opinion) it’s all driven by the wrong values. If it isn’t technology, and ‘speeding up’ how we do something in our everyday life then it doesn’t get a second look. I’m hoping ReFunk will change that trend. Another is the emergence of Greens Are Good For You and Jiminy Toys which both highlight the damage of fast fashion and the toys industry. Last but not least, Food Cloud and Iseult Ward belong in every list of this kind. They lead the way.