Robert Willings – Unicap

An interview with Rob Wellings

Winner’s Story

It can be very difficult to get consumers to actively care about their environmental impact. Often, their decisions are based on price or convenience, and the planet is their least concern. So, we must find other ways of changing their buying behaviours, by making the environmental option the more convenient or cost-effective option for them.

In 2019 I entered my project Unicap into the Creative Conscience award and was lucky enough to receive gold in the service design category.
Unicap is a system that aims to reduce coffee cup waste on campus by uniting university coffee shops to provide and maintain a stock of reusable coffee cups for students and staff.

My research showed that, at Staffordshire University (where I was a student), over half of all students and staff purchased a coffee on campus regularly, but only around 20% used a reusable cup. This is because they often forgot to bring it with them or had no easy way of carrying it around, whilst in contrast they nearly always remembered to bring their loyalty card.

Each customer purchases and keeps a reusable coffee cup lid which they present when purchasing their coffee, which is then served in a reusable cup. When they’ve finished their drink, the cup can be returned in any university coffee shop or one of the drop off locations placed around the campus so that it can be washed and reused.
An NFC chip embedded in the lid means the customer’s loyalty card can be stored directly on the cap, providing a greater incentive for customers to remember to bring the lid with them.

The project was a great opportunity for me to positively impact my immediate surroundings and provide a convenient solution for coffee drinkers at university. I’m planning to get in contact with universities and some of the bigger chains that have a lot of on-campus coffee shops to begin implementing the system. So hopefully, you’ll be seeing Unicap at your university soon!

Written by Rob Wellings