In a world where environmental concerns are urgently rising, finding sustainable solutions to everyday challenges is essential. CupLOOP, an Estonian startup founded in 2018, do this via reusable packaging. With their innovative reverse vending machines, CupLOOP aims to make recycling and reusing as effortless as throwing things away, all with the help of cutting-edge RFID tags.
The birth of a green vision
The story of CupLOOP begins with three environmentally conscious founders: Christopher Juul, Marek Suchazevski, and Lauri Luik. In 2018, Marek attended a street food festival in Tallinn, where he noticed that single-use plastic cups were being replaced with reusable alternatives. The process faced challenges as vendors struggled with manual counting and deposit collection.
Driven by the desire to make a difference and inspired by RFID technology’s potential, the CupLOOP team organized a test event in Tallinn. They tagged 15,000 reusable cups with Confidex RFID tags, each with a unique ID. The outcome was promising, affirming that RFID technology was the missing link they needed to make their vision a reality.
Nowadays, CupLOOP’s concept is still simple but effective. The company operates reverse vending machines strategically placed in streets, shopping centres, and public spaces. When customers buy food or drinks in reusable packaging, they pay a deposit, either in cash or through card payment. Later, they can conveniently return the packaging to a CupLOOP machine, tap their bank card or cell phone on the terminal, and collect their deposit refund. Additionally, customers can choose to receive bonus points as a refund, making the process even more rewarding. Unlike single-use items, reusable cups can undergo up to 100-500 cycles before recycling.
The path ahead
With unique RFID IDs on each cup, CupLOOP’s software can seamlessly collect data on when the packages were sold, returned, and the number of cycles they have undergone. This data enables better tracking and inventory management, ensuring that shops know how many packages are available and when they might expire.
By collaborating with reusable packaging operators like Eesti Pandipakend and GreenCup, CupLOOP has made its mark in Lithuania, Germany, the Netherlands, and beyond. Their seamless and efficient solution has garnered interest from various businesses, including COOP Estonia grocery chain, which is piloting their machines. CupLOOP also collaborates with Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, where Estonia’s biggest national events occur.
Thanks to the recent €2 million investment from Estonian SmartCap’s Green Fund, angel investors, and Footprint Firm, CupLOOP is poised for significant growth. The funding will enable the startup to finalise and market its product, further enhancing the adoption of reusable packaging across various sectors. As the world prioritises green solutions, Estonia is once again proving its reputation as one of the most environmentally-conscious countries.
This notion is backed with capital. Until 2026, through funds and direct investments of SmartCap’s Green Fund, €100M will be offered to improve the financing opportunities of Estonian GreenTech companies. SmartCap Green Fund, including its investment in CupLOOP, is funded by the resources of the European Union’s recovery plan NextGenerationEU.