Lone Tree Arts Center introduces reusable cup process in pilot program

First program of its kind in Denver metro area

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With the goal of incorporating more sustainable practices, the Lone Tree Arts Center plans to introduce a new type of reusable cup for that can be used, washed, sanitized and used again. 

This September, the arts center is beginning a trial period with “r.Cup” — a national company that provides plastic reusable cups to live event facilities, according to a City of Lone Tree staff report

“Live event venues are one of the worst offenders for single-use plastic cups, and our current concessions cups are single-use plastic,” said Leigh Chandler, the acting executive director of the arts center, during Lone Tree City Council’s Aug. 16 study session. “A lot of it doesn’t get recycled. So then the question becomes, what do we do?”

Some facilities have begun offering compostable cups or aluminum cups, but she said many of these cups take more energy to produce and are not ideal solutions. 

The r.Cup company, however, makes reusable plastic polypropylene cups, making them a more sustainable choice, she said. Current users of r.Cup in the metro Denver area include Fiddler’s Green, Mission Ballroom and Bluebird theaters, according to the staff report. 

Describing how the process works, Chandler said, “We tell them what we have going on, they figure out how many cups we need and they deliver them in sanitized, sealed tubs. And each cup, before it goes into that tub, goes through a quality assurance test.”

Beverages at the arts center’s events, such as wine and cocktails, will be given in these cups, Chandler said. The cups will not be used for hot beverages.

There will be specially marked bins for people to place their cups after using them. After each event, r.Cup will pick up the cups, she said. 

“They are taken to a state-of-the-art washing and sanitizing facility,” Chandler said. “They go through this Energy Star-certified wash that actually conserves up to 12,740 gallons of water each year.” 

The cups are then distributed again and re-used at events, she said, and the cycle repeats. 

“We would be the first performing arts center in (the) metro region to begin the program, which is very exciting,” Chandler said. 

The fee for the program is based on cups delivered and returned, Chandler said, and the arts center has to pay for lost cups. The estimated cost is higher than what the arts center is currently paying, but it will be able to absorb the cost through its council-approved budget, she said. 

Mayor Jackie Millet asked how the arts center will be determining the success of the pilot program. Chandler said it will be based on how many cups are returned to collection bins. 

“What r.Cup says is that you want a return rate of like 97%, which means that 97% of the cups that you’re giving out are being put back into that recycle bin,” Chandler said. “In the beginning, it’s usually around 90%.”

The arts center will get a monthly report listing its cup return rate as well as the environmental impact of the program, according to the staff report. 

Millet said she is OK with paying a little more upfront for a bigger return in the end, so long as the city is getting that return. 

“I think it’s a great path we’re moving down, and I look forward to us being successful,” Millet said.  

Those interested in learning more about r.Cup can visit: rcup.com/faq

Lone Tree, Lone Tree Arts Center, Reusable, Sustainable, r.Cup

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