ReCube: A Single-Use Plastic Alternative

by Editors Esther Chan and Helen Adams

CleanTech News chats with the co-founder of Refillable and Cupable, Purav Desai, who hopes to raise awareness in Mumbai about choosing sustainable packaging options and avoiding single-use plastics. 

ReCube is a company based in Mumbai, India, that designs packaging systems to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging. ReCube has two main business functions: Cupable and Refillable

Describing single-use plastic as “a disease”, ReCube is a “social company that seeks to revolutionize the way we consume every day,” designing smart packaging that will last without polluting or generating waste.  

Through its Cupable business arm, ReCube provides reusable drinkware for events that can be collected and cleaned post-use for the next customer. 

ReCube has also recently launched the Refillable initiative, which conveniently dispenses homecare and personal care products to the consumers’ residence. 

When speaking with CleanTech News, Purav Desai discusses company emissions, encouraging reuse in consumers and the challenges of sustainable practices in Mumbai, a city of 18m people. 

India’s unique grocery retail industry is fuelling the plastic waste crisis 

‘Mom and pop’ shops are the backbone of India’s grocery retail market with a network of 12 million across the country and 98% of market share. Known locally as “kirana” stores, they provide everything, from food condiments to personal care items. 

These items are however usually sold in single-use plastic sachets to reduce cost, and also because locals are often paid a daily or weekly wage. Purav told CleanTech News: “Sachets have the lowest plastic waste value, because it is a composite product in tiny amounts. Recycling them would not make economical sense and there has been little incentive for sachet collection programmes.

“We have a two pronged strategy to reach out to rural communities and slums. With the refill truck as part of Refillable, we will park it near the community slum on a designated day and time.

“Customers will be able to refill their products in quantities of 50ml, 100ml – the amount usually purchased in sachets. With the help of our partners and external organisations, we could look to give them further discounts to incentivise them to keep up with the refilling instead of buying in sachets.”

How has the landscape reacted to ReCube?

“Customers are finding it accessible – we’re bringing it to the people!”

We recently did an article on EthicoIndia, a startup based in Mumbai which facilitates beach cleanups. Is the city a particularly environmentally conscious one? 

“Mumbai is a metropolitan city, where people come from all over the country. While people are generally aware of environmental issues, they are not willing to pay the extra costs for sustainable products.

“There has also been a shift in sustainable packaging – some companies have moved to paper with a plastic lining, which is still no good. This all goes to landfill as contaminated plastic cannot be recycled.”

What challenges have you faced?

“People are not willing to pay the extra costs for sustainable products, and awareness about the reasoning behind higher costs is a big issue. Our hope for the future is to eradicate single use plastic and encourage awareness among customers, to look at the carbon footprint behind the price.”

What has been the impact of carbon emission from ReCube?

“We have no third party auditing, but we know we have saved much from landfill [which reduces methane emissions].”

How does ReCube ensure that consumers reuse enough, to off-set resources incurred in the production of reusables?

“In India, people usually save take-away boxes for later use. We hope to tap on this existing habit, where consumers already reuse their packaging. This way, we off-load the mass cleaning and collection problem that most other businesses would face in their models.” 

How do you ensure that your/the (which businesses) businesses retain their branding? 

“To retain the branding of our partners, we advertise on our mobile trucks. The brand perception would also change for the better, as consumers recognise it as an effort to reduce packaging waste.”