Bring, borrow, or buy: Prague espresso bar ditches disposable paper cups

Prague café EMA is switching to a more sustainable way of serving up it's patrons' daily caffeine fix. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 03.04.2024 12:56:00 (updated on 03.04.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague espresso bar EMA bid farewell to single-use cups this week. The coffee franchise has announced on its website that from April 1, customers ordering their daily cups of coffee from any of its four locations should be prepared to bring, borrow, or buy one.

"We’re done with paper cups. Hundreds of them are used daily, only to be discarded right away. Drink, crush, toss, and they’re gone...turning into waste," EMA wrote on its website.

When the company announced its plans to eventually ditch single-use cups in a social media post last year, feedback wasn’t entirely positive. Some patrons raised concerns about not always having their reusable cups on hand or wanting to go for a spontaneous coffee.

“We probably won’t satisfy everyone; unfortunately, that’s impossible in this model,” EMA founder Kamil Skrbek told business news site Czech Crunch in October 2023. "This year alone, however, we gave out 300,000 pieces of disposable cups and lids to customers, a large pile of waste that we would like to save the surrounding bins from,” he added.

EMA now provides two options for customers caught without a reusable cup: backup REcups can be purchased for CZK 50 and returned at any of the cafe’s three locations. Customers can also borrow the café’s branded cup, dubbed the Emil Navrátil (navrátil means “to return” in Czechi) for a deposit of CZK 200. These cups can be returned for a sanitized replacement or kept by the customer.

Two weeks ago, EMA made the change official in an Instagram post, saying “It’s going to be a roller coaster ride and a massacre, but yeah, it’s true. And the time is fast approaching.”

We visited EMA’s Karlín branch this morning and spotted no signs of a massacre. A sign on the front counter read: “Sorry, we only use reusable cups.” Customers seemed happy to purchase the cups, and the barista told us that their black returnable cup was the most popular option.

Prague isn’t the first city where cafes have taken what many consider a radical step – London roaster Monmouth ceased using disposable cups as early as 2022, and the Boston Tea Party chain followed suit – but the approach has not been widely adopted. EMA coffee chain remains a pioneer in Czechia and on a global scale.

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