Mugshare Launches at Renaissance Café

By Teghan Acres

Despite our best intentions, most of us have forgotten to bring a reusable mug when we grab that necessary caffeine fix between lectures. At SFU’s Renaissance Cafe, that will no longer be a problem. Thanks to the introduction of Mugshare, customers can now borrow a reusable mug to go. 

Mugshare is a social impact program that provides a safe, reusable alternative to single-use cups through a convenient deposit-return system. This local business was created by a group of students in 2016 in an effort to shift the norm on single-use waste, without putting the burden of responsibility on individuals. Their initial six-month pilot diverted more than 10,000 single-use cups from the landfill. 

Prior to 2020, over 1 million single-use cups and plastic bottles were disposed of each year at SFU. The university zero-waste initiative, Reuse for Good, is tackling that waste from all directions. In 2021, single-use plastic bottles were phased out from vending and dining. Re-Use for Good is now taking steps to reduce the reliance on disposable single-use cups and is providing start-up funding to launch Mugshare at SFU. SFU Food is proud to provide Mugshare as a convenient option to help reduce single-use waste. Mugshare’s reusable mugs can be used thousands of times, saving a disposable cup from the landfill with each use. 

Dan Traviss, Director of SFU Food, says that, “we are committed to creating a zero waste campus. The introduction of Mugshare allows SFU community members to always have a reusable option available. This is only the beginning and we hope to expand the program across the campus after this initial launch.” 

Customers can participate by ordering a drink and asking for a Mugshare mug in exchange for a $5 fully refundable deposit. They can then leave the cafe and enjoy their drink in class, over office hours or anywhere they like! Next time they return to the cafe, they simply exchange their used mug for a clean one. They can exit the program at any time and return their mug to obtain  their original $5 deposit. Mugshare’s intent is to keep the program as accessible as possible — no app or smartphone is required.

Director and co-founder of Mugshare, Melanie Chanona notes that “before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were making progress, but lack of clarity around health and safety concerns stalled the momentum.” Luckily, attention on this issue has resulted in a widespread consensus from health experts that with proper sanitation policies in place, reusables are safe to use. All Mugshare mugs are washed and sanitized after every use in commercial-grade dishwashers. 

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) also stated that “COVID-19 transmission from handling reusable containers such as grocery bags, coffee mugs, dollar bills, coins, bulk bins and other reusable items has not been documented” and specifies that businesses serving food are allowed to “accept and fill reusable coffee mugs and water bottles.” 

Renaissance Cafe is Mugshare’s first Burnaby location and their 19th cafe location. 

“As everybody is getting ready to move forward, we’re moving in the right direction by moving away from single-use paper cups for coffee, tea and other beverages,” says Parminder Parhar, operator of Renaissance Cafe for over 25 years. “We’ve partnered with Mugshare to provide our community a clean, reusable, and easily accessible take-away cup alternative for our campus.”

Together, SFU and Mugshare are working together to shift the norm from single-use to reusable. Ask for a Mugshare mug to go at your next visit to Renaissance Cafe in the AQ at SFU Burnaby.