These Guys in Toronto Want to Wean You Off Disposable Coffee Cups

Their app-based reusable cup program called Muuse is a game-changer.

barista holds out reusable Muuse coffee cup

Dream Zero

Two Toronto entrepreneurs are on a mission to change the way you get your coffee to go. Scott Morrison and Ryan Dyment, co-founders of Dream Zero, have been working to bring reusable food and beverage containers to the Canadian market for the past four years. 

Pre-pandemic, Dream Zero supplied street festivals and corporate events with reusable 16-ounce cups to cut down on plastic waste. But when everything shut down and all of their 2020 events were canceled, they realized they had to come up with another idea.

That's when they discovered Muuse, an app-based reusable cup program that originated in Singapore and was being used in Hong Kong and Jakarta. Morrison and Dyment realized this could be an ideal fit for Canadians, as it addressed the various concerns they had about plastics, waste, and convenience. After building a rapport and cutting a deal with the app's founders, Muuse launched in Toronto in February 2021.

In a phone conversation with Treehugger, Morrison explained how Muuse works. After a free 30-day trial, users can purchase a monthly membership for $5 (or $45 annually) and ask for a Muuse cup when they enter participating cafes. Morrison said,

"The barista shows the bottom of the cup, which is where the QR code is, and scans it. So it's contactless, just the same as a single-use coffee cup would be. Then the barista fills the coffee order, puts it up on the bar, and the user takes it. Once they're done, the user can return it to any participating cafes by scanning the bottom of the cup again, and then scanning the QR that's located on the return bin."
QR code on bottom of Muuse reusable coffee cup

Dream Zero

Cafes are in charge of washing the insulated stainless steel cups. "It's really light on their end," Morrison said. "We manage the inventory without the cafe being involved at all. They just show the bottom of the cup; they don't even have to scan anything themselves."

The washing procedure was developed with input from Toronto Public Health to ensure proper sanitization. "There are minimal chances for cross-contamination with the way the program has been designed," Morrison explained. "Despite going through strict lockdown measures in the city, members have continued to show us a lot of support." This is good news to hear, as many reusable initiatives were put on hold in 2020—and many have yet to be reinstated.

When asked what appeal an in-house reusable cup program has for customers who could just bring their own at no extra cost, Morrison pointed out that cups are easy to forget and inconvenient to carry around. He mentioned a running group that visits a farmer's market in Toronto every Saturday that wants coffee, but not a disposable cup. They're now faithful Muuse members. 

Muuse drop-off procedure at cafe

Dream Zero

Another coffee shop in Toronto uses no disposables whatsoever, offering coffee in "ugly" ceramic mugs for takeout—except that sometimes people need a lid or insulation to keep their drink warm. That's where Muuse can help.

Last but not least, Morrison noted that "people just don't like having things in plastic anymore, to be honest. [They are] hearing about dangers with microplastics, that we're finding them in our bodies, so they're moving away from plastic for that reason as well."

While Muuse is still fairly small—located in 15 cafes in two Toronto neighborhoods with just over 200 members so far—it continues to grow steadily. The City of Toronto recently committed to reducing single-use plastics, so membership is likely to grow as more business owners and customers discover Muuse and realize what a smart solution it is.

Morrison said that Dream Zero plans to launch reusable takeout food containers in the new year, as well. These stainless steel containers will replace the Styrofoam and black plastic boxes that are still used by many restaurants, but are on the list of targeted items for Canada's impending national single-use plastics ban.

If you live in the Toronto area, it's worth checking out Muuse. The faster it grows there, the wider it will spread, and it would be truly wonderful to have an option like this in every coffee shop across North America.