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A new app on the block — or in this case, island, is helping cafes and their customers become a greater sustainable community.

A pilot program that allows customers to walk away with reusable cups and containers and then drop them back at a later date has been running for the past three months in Kingscote on Kangaroo Island.

Resuably app founder Mary Kelly said customers signed up to access the app like a subscription.

“Think of cafes as almost their own libraries, but they’re all connected to each other, so you only need the one card — which lives on your phone in our app,” she said.

She said customers had a few weeks to bring the items back so they could be cleaned for someone else to use.

“It’s shifting away from this system of ownership to a system of a shared economy,” she said.

Ms Kelly said she was inspired by a call to ban reusable cups due to hygiene issues and occupational health and safe violations.

She said she knew that would be a step backwards for sustainability.

She said the cups and containers were sourced from a Melbourne-based company and were made from 75 per cent recycled stainless steel, which meant they could also be recycled.

Kangaroo Island’s isolation made it the ideal place for the trial.

“It doesn’t really work if you’ve got cafes scattered but we have this community that is isolated, which means the cups and bowls can go around within their ecosystem and we can really meaningfully measure that impact for that community’ Ms Kelly said.

The app has a live tracker which helps identify where the cups are going.

It also measures redistribution and gives information about waste diversion and the project’s environmental impact.

“Kangaroo Island still ships landfill to the mainland, which is a really expensive process,” Ms Kelly said.

Cafes get on board
Cactus Kangaroo Island cafe co-owner Yen Aun Leow said the app aligned with his business’s values.

“Cactus incentivises people to bring cups with them and they get a slight discount, just to reduce take away cups being put into landfill,” Mr Aun Leow said.

“[We’re] encouraging people to look at takeaway cups a different way.”

Ms Kelly said the app had become bigger than she could have anticipated.

“It’s more than just a hygienic swap system, it’s convenient, it helps collect data around impact and circular economy,” she said.

Ms Kelly said her team was looking at how they could expand on the island.

“We’ve got a few things in the works at the moment … but we will be on the mainland by the end of the year— in a couple of locations in Adelaide,” Ms Kelly said.