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The packaging solution which retains the functionality and look & feel of the coffee cup, yet fits within the recycling infrastructure.

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UK coffee-shop consumers have recently been scandalised by a shocking revelation: their seemingly harmless disposable coffee cups are not being recycled. The primary reason for this is that the recycling infrastructure is not set up to enable the separation of materials required to create an attractive & functional coffee cup. Coffee cups are currently made from carton which is then tightly laminated with PE plastic to achieve the insulated, water-tight vessel.  Although effective when working together as a piece of packaging, these materials are not separable, and therefore rather than retaining the value of the plastic, the packaging is disposed of in landfill. The cradle cup concept is made from carton with a PE inner and PE lid - yet the layers in our concept are NOT fused together. The barista fills the cradle cup as usual, but when the PE lid is placed onto the cup, an adhesive within the lid recess fuses with the PE inner (see image). After drinking, the carton and PE elements are then easily separated, and thus suitable for recycling. 

This  means:

- The value of the PE is retained via a larger unit (inner & lid)

- The two elements can be carton can be recycled

- Consumer behaviour is step changed to think about material separation and the simple but vital role they play in helping recycling to be effective

Idea Title

Protecting a well-loved urban icon, the take-out coffee cup, by redesigning it to fit within current recycling infrastructure.

Company / Organization Name

Touch Packaging Innovation


Where are you / your team located?

Maidenhead, UK

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Take-out coffee cups are unrecyclable because the materials cannot easily and widely be separated within the recycling infrastructure. The cradle cup retains the functionality & original concept of using carton with a plastic liner, but by rethinking the construction of the cup – the carton working with a PE inner, remaining separate elements, and the PE inner fusing with the PE lid – we allow the elements to be more easily recycled, and the separated PE element is larger & more significant.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Lucas makes the most of the modern convenience that take-out offers, buying breakfast on the way to work. He's aware of the cost of convenience on the planet. The cradle cup offers convenience yet reassures him his waste will be properly recycled. In creating a positive impact café, Ann must also offer the convenience of a take-out cup to stay competitive. The cradle cup allows her the reassurance that the packaging her customers are taking out into the world will be easily separated & recycled

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

We have developed this solution in response to the vast & increasing single-use hot beverage consumption across multiple categories around the globe.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

After developing a successful PoP prototype that would require concept development & investment, we would then identify potential manufacturing partners to work with us to develop the format for wide scale manufacture & use. We would then pilot within one retail partner (e.g. High street coffee chain). Based on our past work with global FMCG manufactures of coffee cups for vending, we envisage this format having potential for food service also. Manufacture could be scaled to work across both.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

We would link our specialist creative and technical innovation expertise with expert EMF partners to develop the concept prototype. We have worked with material & adhesive specialists and would work with them to explore different opportunities. Working with EMF would allow us the expertise and influence of industry leaders to raise awareness & gather momentum around the idea - initially within the High-street coffee chain industry – and then beyond into the wider food service industry.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

During an internal brainstorm around the challenges of recycling packaging, conversation kept returning to the problem of separating materials. Whilst new and sustainable materials are being developed, how can we leverage current packaging formats yet eliminate the issue of material separation? The team’s solution was the simplest: use complimentary materials in conjunction with each other, but find a way to prevent fusing them together so that they are separable!

Tell us about your work experience

In the last 2 years our work for clients such us Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Nestle Waters, Highland Spring and Carlsberg Group has led to major innovation in bottle and beverage packaging.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Touch design is a privately owned limited company with two major share holders.

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