Asia Startup Revolv Revolutionises Takeaway Culture & Fights Plastic Pollution With RFID-Enabled Network of Reusable Cups & Containers

4 Mins Read

As waste continues to accumulate in landfills and oceans across the planet, endangering marine and wildlife, the importance of confronting plastic pollution has never been more pressing. We are running out of time and we are literally drowning in plastic. According to statistics from the World Economic Forum on the new plastics economy, “32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.” If nothing changes, scientists predict there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

Around the world, companies have been working hard toward a waste-free future, with an urgent focus on addressing our addiction to single-use plastics. With environmental protection a key priority, big names such as Patagonia, Beyond Meat, and Lush Cosmetics have been making waves in their respective industries thanks to their clever solutions that tackle our environmental issues front and center.

One area that has been in need a shakeup is takeaway F&B packaging. We all want the convenience of take-ing away food and drink but most of us agree the single-use disposable containers have got to go. Enter Revolv, the Asia-based startup envisioning a new kind of to-go system that takes on takeaway packaging. Operating a network of reusable cups, bottles and containers, the company has created a deposit-based platform where operators and consumers can easily make use of their reusables, thereby eliminating the need for single use takeaway cups and containers.

For instance, let’s say you order your usual cappuccino on the way to work. If the coffeeshop is a participating Revolv stockist, you would order said takeaway beverage in a Revolv cup and leave a deposit. You would then go to work, enjoy said drink, and then return the cup to any location that is part of Revolv’s network to get your deposit back. Win Win Win!

Launched in Hong Kong late last year with active pilot programs running in the city as well as in Bali, Singapore, and soon to test in the US, Revolv is set to revolutionise takeaway packaging. The entirely self-contained system of distribution is service-intensive (Revolv will cleanse and wash their reusables before putting them back into circulation); tech-heavy (the items have RFID tags similar to bike-sharing initiatives like Mobike and Ofo whereby utensils/cup can be scanned and checked in/out of the company’s software) and design-forward (the coffee cups for the Hong Kong and Singapore market are made from borosilicate glass with an ergonomic silicone lid and silicone sleeve, while the water cups we tested are a sleek stainless steel).

Currently providing cup rental services at events like The Conscious Festival, TedX and WWF’s Festival for Nature before setting up in universities and offices later this year in both countries, the durable and easy-to-clean (they are purposely built for to be dishwash safe) containers can also be found in many locations throughout Bali where the company first started. Given the immediacy and devastation of single-use plastics on the island of Bali, the popular holiday destination was an ideal location to conduct a pilot study around Revolv’s mission.

Born from the optimism that founder Brian Reilly experienced during his 15 years pioneering renewable energy from wind and solar power, the idea behind Revolv came to hime during a flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong after he read an article about a supermarket chain in the UK banning single-use cups. Reilly realized that everything already existed in most cities to run an ‘open loop’ reusables model and got to work pretty much the next day.

Reilly is committed to change the way the world uses takeaway containers without sacrificing consumer or restaurant convenience and Revolv’s game-changing concept has already proved popular: earlier this year, the company was chosen as one of the winners of The NextGen Cup Challenge, a multi-year, multi-industry consortium aimed to push the boundaries of sustainable design, material, and chemical innovation with the aim to solve the global single-use plastic waste issue.

As conscious consumers and businesses are actively seeking to support brands that are helping our environment, it is refreshing to see companies like Revolv pursuing more than just a bottom-line, profit-driven model and building people, passion, purpose, and planet directly into their product. The power to affect change is within our hands as consumers: we must keep companies accountable and vote with our dollar. And this writer for one can’t wait to vote Revolv on her next coffee run.

All images courtesy of Revolv.


  • Jenny Star Lor

    Jenny Star Lor is Green Queen’s resident eco wellness writer. She is passionate about reducing her carbon footprint, loves all things fitness and enjoys tasting her way through Hong Kong’s veggie dining options. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls Hong Kong home. Previously, she wrote and reported for global publications such as The Hollywood Reporter and US Weekly. She is also a passionate pole dancer and teaches classes across Hong Kong.

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