The designs that could be eco-friendly alternatives to disposable cups

Twelve designs have been selected to share the prize of £761,400 for global competition, The NextGen Cup Challenge, with concepts including cup liners, new materials and reusable cup service models.


A reusable cup scheme by Revolv

Winners of a competition to design products or services that hope to tackle the problem of disposable cups have been announced.

The NextGen Cup Challenge is an initiative by the NextGen Consortium, a group of major brands in the food industry who have come together to try to solve single-use food packaging waste, and includes Starbucks and McDonald’s among others.

It is supported by Closed Loop Partners, an organisation which invests in sustainability and recycling solutions and Open Ideo, a design group which works collaboratively with different partners to help tackle societal problems.

Around 250bn fibre-and-plastic cups, such as those used for coffee, were used around the world in 2016, according to challenge organisers, with many ending up in landfill. These cups usually have a plastic lining, which prevents leaks.

The Colombier BioBarrier Coating by Colombier Group

Challenge organisers say that although usually both the plastic and fibre materials in existing cups are recyclable when separated, currently there are “limitations with recycling infrastructure”, which mean that these materials cannot easily be recovered and recycled. They also say that there is currently “no strong incentive for recyclers to recover the materials.”

The challenge has called on inventors to design sustainable solutions to the problem of one-use cup waste, which still meet high performance standards.

Ideas had to address cup solutions for both hot and cold drinks, which could be designed separately if needed, could include other elements such as lids and straws, and could also take the form of reuse schemes. The designs had to aim to use sustainable or recycled materials and were also required to meet health and safety food standards.

The competition was open to individuals and groups, and aimed at people including designers, businesses, students and more.

There were nearly 500 entries submitted from more than 50 countries. Judges included members of the NextGen Consortium, as well as recycling, composting and packaging experts.

Now, 12 have been chosen as winners. They will all share a portion of a $1million (£761,400) funding prize, with up to six of the winners going on to be part of a business accelerator programme, which will provide support in bringing their ideas to market.

Another winner in the innovative cup liner category is the Footprint Formed Fiber Solution by Footprint US

The winning entries have been divided into three types of solutions: innovative cup liners, which rethink the plastic liner; new materials, which are used to make the whole cup plant-based or compostable; and reusable cup service models, which create a system to continually reuse cups.

The majority of winners fall under the innovative cup liners category. Winners in this section include the Colombier BioBarrier Coating by Colombier Group, which aims to replace the plastic in cups with a recyclable coating, and the New Gen BioPBS Coated Cup by PTT MCC Biochem Company Limited, which has designed a home-compostable liner for paper cups.

In the new materials category, UK-based company Solublue Ltd has designed Solublue Biodegradable Cups and Straws, which are made of plant-based and non-toxic materials.

In the reusable cup service models category, CupClub, another UK-based company, has been selected for its CupClub Reusable Revolution Service. Rather than creating single-use cups, CupClub has designed a returnable cup scheme that would allow people to pick up a cup at a café and return it to a range of drop-off points at other cafés.

The Reusable Revolution Service by CupClub

German company ReCup GmbH has designed ReCup: Deposit System for Reusable Cups, which would let people rent a cup for a deposit and return it at other shops around the city.

Revolv, a company based in Indonesia and Hong Kong, has also designed a network of reusable cups for deposits, which it aims to connect to an app, though it is not yet clear how this would work.

The 12 winning designs are in different stages of the development process. The NextGen Cup Consortium says it aims to continue working with the winners going forward to advance their projects. See all the winners here.

All images courtesy of The NextGen Cup Consortium/OpenIdeo. 

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