How this SoCal attraction keeps single-use cups out of landfills (and oceans!)

At the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, they work hard to protect sea creatures—the last thing they want is to clog up oceans with single-use waste.

So when they learned they could eliminate their single-use paper cups (and dumpsters of trash) with reusable r.Cups, they were pleased. They host millions of visitors every year, and the amount of cups being thrown away was concerning.

But they had two questions: Are r.Cups really sustainable? And will guests really return them? Here’s what they found.

“How sustainable are r.Cups really?”

Ken Stewart, chef for the aquarium’s four cafes and concession stands, admits he and his team were, at first, “a little concerned” reusable r.Cups are made of plastic. But when they looked at the overall reduction in waste and the total environmental impact, they realized r.Cups were the most sustainable solution available.

“They’re reusable, which makes them sustainable,” he says.

“Plus,” he adds, “the fact that r.World has a state-of-the-art washing system through Ecolab that uses a third of the water it would normally take to sanitize—that convinced us.”

“r.World is a good thing—it offers value and sustainability. It’s serving us very well.”

“Will guests really return r.Cups?”

Ken wasn’t convinced the program would actually work. “I really thought we would lose a lot of cups,” he says.

So the Aquarium signed up for a 90-day trial to see how it went.

The r.World team scoped out the 360,000 square-foot park and strategically placed return bins and signage throughout— especially near cafes and exits. They trained Aquarium staff on how to get the highest return rates from patrons. And they assured Ken and his team that the r.World system had been successful at thousands of similar operations.

Sure enough, right from the start, the Aquarium was consistently getting 90 to 92% of the r.Cups back in the bins. Guests clearly understood what to do with the cups and seemed glad to return them.

Guests consistently return 90 to 92% of r.Cups at the Aquarium.

Full-service support and flexible ordering

In addition to the environmental benefits of using r.Cups, Ken appreciates the service he receives from the r.World team. With a busy crew and limited space, he wouldn’t be able to handle a reusable cup program that isn’t convenient, flexible, and simple.

With r.World, he places his r.Cup orders once or twice a week and the cups are delivered as soon as the next day.

“What’s lovely about it is you can order exactly what you need,” he says. “You can have one amount for summer when we have a higher attendance, and you can adjust it down in wintertime when it’s slower. They’re very flexible.”

Ken has felt supported since day one. Anytime he’s had questions, he said the r.World team was there to help. “They’re just really good,” he says. “They’re very kind. They check in with you all the time.”

“Our guests are embracing it. They understand it. The receptacles are very easy to follow and see. It’s a win win.”

Helping to retrain habits

The fact that the Aquarium’s guests return so many of their cups is proof to Ken that the system works. And he appreciates the larger impact the r.Cup program is having on American culture.

“We’re all habitual people, and we follow what’s easiest,” he says. “r.Cups allow people to make a decision about where they’re putting things—and at this time in the world, we need to think about those things.”

A better future is in your hands.

Is it time to eliminate single-use cups at your facility?