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Join the Eco to go™ Movement

Ditch disposables for renewable reusables. Eco to go cups are 100% natural made from agricultural waste and bio resin.

Photo of Lynn Johnson
17 13

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It’s time for change 

Turn the clock back 30 years when boilers, TV’s and washing machines lasted much longer than today’s cheap alternatives, people would get things fixed and reuse them. I remember taking my own Pyrex bowl to be filled with fish & chips at the local chip shop and family picnics using Tupperware containers to keep our food fresh. Takeout coffee was small scale, it was a thing for the future!

Today’s fast paced society where convenience is a necessity has created a breeding ground for plastic disposables. Sadly plastics have become mainstream, entering our oceans causing extreme damage which will take decades to fix. 

With the help of new technologies, renewable resources and open collaboration we can start to make positive changes to how we use and dispose of products to help reverse this destruction.

[Update]

Husk is a perfect example of renewable materials, it is agricultural waste which is usually incinerated or sent to landfill. Approx 125 million tonnes of rice husk and 135 million tonnes of coffee husk are produced every year. That's a staggering 260 million tonnes of waste per year which can be made in to renewable products to replace plastics. 

Husk mountain

                                 Husk mountains - usually burnt

Husk is a layer of shell (parchment) which protects rice and coffee beans whilst growing in the fields. 

  

By using husk as a raw material, we can help to create additional (and eco-friendly) revenue streams for rural farmers. Our dream is to realize sustainability for users while achieving zero waste at the farm.

Coffee and rice are grown worldwide, therefore husk can be produced on a local scale, reducing carbon footprint. 

Can you imagine drinking coffee out of a cup made from coffee or eating rice from a pot made from rice which at end of life can be composted turning in to fertilizer, truly circular! 

Product

Cups are 100% natural made from husk and bio resin.

Dishwasher and microwave safe with antibacterial and insulating properties. Non toxic and compostable at end of life adding nutrients to soil. 

[Update]

New product development includes a cup with contours for ease of grip, thermal retention properties and slotted grooves in the base for water drainage after washing.

Additional new products will include soft drink tumblers, water bottles, soup & cereal pots, cutlery and lunch boxes.

Systems

Model 1 Ownership

Owner keeps the Cup, washes, reuses and buys a new one when required. A discount is offered  every time the Cup is reused.

Model 2 Rental system for people on the move

Vendor purchases Cups and a license to join Eco to go system earning green rewards for number of Cups used. They are issued with equipment to scan Cups in and out.  

Consumers join the Eco to go scheme by downloading an Eco to go™ App. A yearly subscription would be payable along with top up payments, green rewards are given each time a Cup is checked out. The App locates participating vendors via GPS, Cups are scanned out using QR codes and when finished the App will locate the nearest Eco Bin/vendor for scan and drop off. Bins will be situated in high traffic areas such as shopping malls, train and bus stations, hospitals etc. Eco bins will be split into sections to enable users to separate waste.

A vending style machine is currently in use in America to scan reusable to go food containers www.agreenozzi.com. Cups and lids could be weighed and sorted by size to stack efficiently.

Cups are collected from Eco bins by bike or Eco car and taken to a local establishment where dishwashers are rented to sanitize Cups and returned to vendors for reuse. We can learn from existing reuse systems best practices to implement.

Local jobs created for deliveries/collections and dishwashing.   

This system would be franchised, could also be used for a variety of beverage and food and would be ideal for coffee shops, fast food chains, garages, supermarkets, anywhere people buy food and drink to go.

Model 3 Rental System Closed Loop – ideally suited for venues where people spend a period of time

Vendor purchases Cups and rents out to consumer using a deposit scheme in form of a token / keyring or App, consumer returns Cup to vendor and exchanges for a clean Cup or token, or places in an Eco bin.   

Closed loop systems include schools, universities, sports and music arenas, offices, festivals.

Marketing

Use hard hitting messages highlighting damage caused by plastics pollution at point of sale and bins as a gentle nudge encouraging green choices.

Poster campaigns, e-marketing, social media.

Cup personalisation and Eco bins would provide a great platform to sell advertising to leading brands & chains.  

Eco to go™ road shows with music, comedy and talks – linked to sustainability. 

Give-aways – keyrings, backpacks, pens.

[Update]

We have our first Eco to go road show booked in September to promote Eco to go products at University of Birmingham.

Charitable donations

A levy on food and drink disposables with money raised to be donated to good causes, charities and community groups. Research has shown that price increases have a deeper psychological impact encouraging change, than offering a reduction in price.

A 5 pence contribution for all Cups sold would also be donated to charity.

The 3 P’s

Implementation of a reuse system using renewable resources demonstrates how People, Planet & Profit can work in unison towards a circular economy with increased sociability, reduced resources & costs and zero landfill.


"Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in day out" Robert Collier

Idea Title

Eco to go Sustainable reusable alternatives to disposables.

Company / Organization Name

Website

www.eco-to-go.co.uk

Where are you / your team located?

Nottingham, England

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

A reusable system using products made from renewable resources eliminates small format plastic packaging waste.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

User Case 3, a regenerative cup would help Anna towards her dream of running a net positive impact cafe. Lucas could leave his cup at a conveniently located drop off point. With the use of technology this system could be applied locally and in time on a global platform.

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

At present UK & Ireland with scope to work with international communities and businesses

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Once systems have been tested in local marketplaces, we would offer a franchise scheme to develop the system into the wider global market. Local renewable materials could be utilised for manufacture, reducing carbon footprint. Obstacles could be operational, overcoming legislation issues and persuading people to change the way they behave. We can learn through engagement and experience to overcome problems which may arise.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Piloting: You have started to implement your solution as a whole with a first set of real users. You may have started to develop a business model for your idea, including identifying key customer segments, relevant partnerships, go-to-market strategy, and draft financials.

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

Our goal is to eliminate plastic waste in food and drink takeout packaging. The first goal would be the positive impact of diverting 10 million disposables into reusables, second goal 100 million and third goal 1 billion. The Accelerator Program will enable us to quickly progress with investment in research and technology. Working with Top professionals to formulate new ideas and processes to establish a reusable system in a variety of cultures.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

My idea originally came from Audrey Copeland, a student in Florida who came up with the idea of reusing food takeout packaging 10 years ago and subsequently from working with University of Chester to introduce reusable products and schemes.

Tell us about your work experience

Worked in foodservice for 20 years supplying products via distributor network. Designed dinnerware to help improve independence, nutrition & hydration for people with limited mobility/dementia.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Limited Company.

17 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Camron Hinman
Team

I like the design of the cups. They are very visually appealing in addition to environmentally friendly. Great job. Camron

Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

Hi Camron, thank you for your message and kind words. Your Croptainer strainers - offering circular design - reducing plastic waste - cool idea. well done.

Photo of Soren
Team

Cool concept! Just out of curiosity: What is a "bio resin"? Is it Lignin? Can you use all types of bio waste?

Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

A bio-resin is a resin which derives some or all of its constituent from plants. Rice husk products are 100% natural and do contain lignin, which helps to give the product strength. Not sure if we can use all types of bio waste, would be interesting to develop more products from different types of food waste. There's a company in Germany manufacturing reusable coffee cups from coffee grounds. I love your fun cap concept and my 2 young nephews do too! Wishing you huge success.

Photo of Matt Jones
Team

Lynn Johnson - Loving the fins ;) A'la Cuppuccino - temporary reusable coffee cup 

Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

The fins design out the need for a sleeve same as Cuppuccino. Coffee husk cup is a new start up company in Australia, cups will be available for distribution early next year. The lid design is really cool too. Wishing you success Matt Jones , I really like your ideas.

Photo of Gesina
Team

Hi Lynn,
it is great to see your idea here. Our vision of how to tackle the problem with disposables is very similar. My company GO Box is a reusable and returnable to-go container system enabled by an App. We install drop sites for users to conveniently return their used containers. By bicycle, we pick them up for washing and return them to participating vendors. More info here: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/circular-design/ideas/go-box-the-service-for-reusable-and-returnable-to-go-container

I am very interested in the material you are suggesting to use as we are currently using P5. It can be reused more than 300 times and then be recycled. What is the price point of the rice husk cup?
Also, any feedback regarding the GO Box solution is very welcome!

Would love to connect and learn/share experiences from the reusable world.

Best, Gesina

Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

Hi Gesina,
It’s exciting to see Go Box in this challenge, we certainly have a lot of synergy with our reusable to go systems to reduce plastic waste and could hugely benefit through collaboration. Your Smart App and collection / wash service are commendable and something I am working towards. I plan to implement a pilot scheme in cafes in my home city Nottingham. I am also working with contract caterers, hospitals, education establishments and arena venues. 
How easy have you been able to sign up vendors and users to Go Box, what style of marketing has been most effective and how have you been able to change peoples habits?
It would be great to find out more about your Smart App development. We are looking to develop a Smart drop bin offering additional convenient drop points in busy footfall areas.

Rice husk cups are 100% natural and non-toxic. University of Chester have been using them since January this year and 2 more universities ordered 6,000 cups in the last week. We are working with Hobart commercial dishwashers to ascertain number of cycles the cups can withstand. Rice husk bio resin can be molded into a large number of foodservice products including soup pots, cereal pots, ice cream pots, plates, bowls, cutlery and chopping boards. Rice husk cups are sold in UK for around £6+vat to end users. For large volumes this price is greatly reduced.

Kind Regards, Lynn

Photo of Paricha Duangtaweesub
Team

Hi Lynn, thank you for sharing this idea. I absolutely identify with the problem that you have described early on in your post and agree with you that we had our solutions, before plastics came into the picture. I am working on an idea with reusable containers specific to Thailand on this platform myself.

Since you are in the piloting stage, I was wondering what kinds of challenges, if any, you are working on right now? What are you working on on the technical side of your proposal? As an enthusiast of materials science, I am excited to see that you are designing landfill-bound waste into your containers.

Best,

Paricha

Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

Hi Paricha, thank you for your message, reintroducing Pinto is a great nostalgic idea to reduce disposable food packaging. I have been promoting reusable takeout containers for over 5 years. The main challenge is persuading people to change their habits and not giving up on something you believe in. University of Chester introduced our reusable food takeout program 4 years ago, after initial resistance they made a decision to remove the option for disposable food takeout packaging, they now serve the majority of their food takeout in reusables and have saved money in the process (see my research contribution for more detail).
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/circular-design/research/eco-to-go
Effective advertising, education and incentives to reuse containers are key to ensure take up of a new system.
Model 2 – rental system for people on the move – this idea is in early development stage:
We are liaising with a tech company to design Eco to go Smart App.
Market research - interviewing potential vendors and end users in Nottingham UK, (my local area) with a view to setting up a pilot scheme. Feedback so far is positive, people like the idea of sustainability and reuse rather than dispose, but it needs to be convenient in order to work effectively.
I’m exhibiting at a school caterers forum this week and will discuss the idea of renting school kitchens with dish washing facilities, which are currently used for just a few hours per day, 5 days per week.
Would be good to know more about feedback you may have received from your local food retailers and potential users. Have you any plans on how you would promote the idea, would you offer incentives to vendors and users?
Rice husk as a raw material is available in abundance and can be molded into a number of products including cutlery, plates, bowls and toys, possibly Pinto’s!
I’m excited to be part of the changes happening in society and the move toward renewable, sustainable products and systems.
Best regards, Lynn

Photo of Keith Riggs
Team

Thank you for your leadership and product. I own one of your cups which was a present from 89 grad in Bern. Very nice and I love your new vectors of optimising flows and using equipment more. Great that you are part of this. @riggs-design

Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

Thank you Keith I really appreciate your comments and so pleased you are enjoying your rice husk cup. I will update the info graphic from my research shortly with improved flow for a cup rental system. I was exhibiting Eco to go at an exhibition last week and had great feedback plus new ideas for reusable soup and pasta pots to replace disposables.

Photo of Giok P CHUA
Team

WHAT If there is an environmental tax of $1 per cup WHAT will be the adoption rate? 100%?

Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

A $1 tax would be radical and would most definitely increase adoption rate, being realistic a 25 cent charge would have a significant positive impact.

Photo of Matt Jones
Team

Hi Lynn,

Do you have much insight on the average adoption rate of cups-for-life (servings using disposable v cup-for-life), average reuse rates vs repeat sales using disposable, and/or the lifetime of a cup-for-life per customer?

My current hypothesis is that when pushed, sales and intentions to reuse are good, but overtime, sales slow (lack of continued push), and habits for reuse begin to wane. This is purely based on my own observations whilst working in a number of offices that try to promote reusable cups.

I have to also admit to previously owning a few cups-for-life... I'm no longer sure where they are. I have a couple of travel mugs too. But I find them so bulky, and they tend to build up a funky smell once you leave them at the office over a few weekends.

I look forward to hearing more and following your success.

Best wishes,
Matt

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Lynn,

It is great to see you in the ideas phase and know a bit more about your plans to scale.

What feedback have you received on the different business models?

Do you have a website you can share with us to provide some context for your idea? I found this site - https://www.eco-to-go.co.uk/ . Is this you?

Photo of Lynn Johnson
Team

Hi Kate,
We introduced Model 3 closed loop system to University of Chester 4 years ago with Eco to go boxes, after initial resistance Eco boxes have replaced the majority of food to go packaging at the university. In January we launched Eco to go Cups, feedback from the catering team is positive with regard to quality but take up has again seen resistance. To date approx 500 students have joined the Cup scheme, feedback from staff is that students enjoy the kudos of drinking out of a Starbucks cup and the convenience of throwaway cups. I will be supporting the University at Freshers week and plan to step up our efforts to educate students about the effects of throwaways on the environment.
University of Birmingham and Uni South Wales are looking to launch Model 1 - ownership in September.
Model 2 is in research & development stage, I will post feedback asap.
Yes, https://www.eco-to-go.co.uk/ is our website.