31 August 2022

Circularity Tales: tackling the problem of single-use cups in Spain

At Impact Hub, we believe in the power of circularity to create a more sustainable present and future. That’s why we are on a mission to mainstream circular principles across our operations, our programmes, our projects and our member’s initiatives. 

To showcase our commitment with that mission, in the latest Circularity Tales series we are presenting great examples from innovators and entrepreneurs who participated in our global pilot programme addressed at embedding circular principles across their ventures. Our invitee of the moment is Ander Alvarez, founder of Irri Sarri

“Your coffee to go, better with Irri Sarri”, that’s their motto. A member of Impact Hub Donostia since 2020, the Spanish venture created in that same year is dedicated to reducing the use and existence of single-use disposable cups, reducing environmental problems related to plastic waste generation.

Irri Sarri - Impact Hub Donostia Circularity Tales

Impact Hub: We appreciate that you’re here to share your circular adventure with us, Ander! To get us started, what exactly does circularity mean to you?

Ander Alvarez: It’s the goal! In nature, there is no such thing as “garbage”, so we must find the way to generate less non recyclable waste and consume more consciously – that’s what circularity is about for us.

Impact Hub:
You participated in the latest Impact Hub Donostia pilot programme dedicated to the implementation of circular practices into your business. Tell us more about it!

Ander Alvarez: Irri Sarri was born to avoid the waste generated by take-away cups. Before participating in the Impact Hub Donostia circularity pilot, we were very focused on our product – the reusable cup. Now, we have the understanding that there is a lot to be done ahead of us and have set specific objectives to work in different phases and with our suppliers. The next steps are clearer now. For instance, we used the programme’s guidance to start dividing our objectives into 3 groups, depending on the level of the processes’ difficulty. We are following the reverse logistic of things, starting by reflecting about what we do in our day to day, until we get to  the origins of the materials we use and making the necessary adjustments.

Impact Hub:
What challenges were you or have you been experiencing in this journey?

Ander Alvarez: Circularity is a very difficult goal to achieve. It is a slow process with many challenges. Impact Hub Donostia is helping us to identify the most important ones for Irri Sarri. We need to work with clear objectives and not lose energy along the way. 

On the other side, the part we enjoyed the most in the programme was when it became clear that many people have the same problems as us. Leading a project is emotionally difficult. There are very good moments and very bad moments almost every day! So we appreciate the mutual support received throughout this journey.

Impact Hub:
Looking at all the learned lessons throughout the programme, which circularity practices to implement or steps to follow would you recommend to other ventures that want to become more sustainable as well?

Ander Alvarez: My advice would be the following: simplify your goals; be honest with the benefit you want to bring to society; and find a solution or adapt a product to tackle the consumption problem. We buy too many things.

simplify your goals; be honest with the benefit you want to bring to society; and find a solution or adapt a product to tackle the consumption problem. We buy too many things”.

Impact Hub: Now shifting the focus to the future, what’s next for Irri Sarri? 

Ander Alvarez: Irri Sarri stays strong in its mission to eliminate single-use cups, especially in offices and places with coffee machines. To achieve this objective in a circular way, we would like to be able to collaborate with committed companies – and fun people, of course!

Stay up to date with Irri Sarri’s work and next steps in this circularity journey by following them on Instagram or by getting in touch with Ander Alvarez

Circularity is part of our broader Environmental Strategy – discover how Impact Hub Global Network is addressing our time’s most pressing issues here. For more inspiring stories like this, head to our blog.

To learn from already-tested approaches, discover new activities and opportunities to integrate the Circular Economy knowledge into your entrepreneur support programs design and implementation, discover our toolkit!