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Gaami Cup - Reimagining the takeaway coffee cup

By combining the traditional takeaway lid and cup, the Gaami Cup eliminates plastic waste, prevents spillage and reduces production costs.

Photo of Emma Gilpin
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The Gaami cup is the result of intensive life cycle mapping of the takeaway coffee cup and lid, from manufacture to system stakeholders. 

Prototyping and user testing led to a design that eliminates harmful plastics from takeaway coffee packaging as well as enhancing the experience of drinking and transporting coffee. 

Company / Organization Name

Thunk Creative Studio

Where are you / your team located?

Cape Town, South Africa.

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

The takeaway coffee cup+lid unit is the second largest product pollutant in the world, Starbucks alone used 1.9 billion cups in the year 2000. Although the lid is recyclable, it more often ends up polluting the environment. The 'paper' on the other hand is very difficult to recycle due to the thin layer of Polyethylene that when in water separates from the paper, damaging aquatic wildlife. The Gaami Cup eliminates all plastic elements by using only one material: compostable PLA coated paper.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

The Gaami design perfectly fulfills the needs of the user/small business in Case 3. Not only does the cup design eliminate all harmful plastics, it is able to be manufactured at a lower price than the existing packaging. The design also aims to enhance the user experience of coffee drinking, making it more enjoyable as well as spill/leak proof.

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

As our design studio is based in Cape Town, all research and designing was done locally. The design though solves a worldwide problem in a much larger industry, so the product would ideally be implementable in any coffee drinking society.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

The next phase in the process involves obtaining capital investment and business mentorship for the purpose of manufacturing the product using local or international manufacturers. Supply chains will be formed using existing distributors or by dealing directly with coffee shops. The largest obstacle currently is manufacture, which will be overcome easily with funding and guidance. The Gaami cup is designed to effortlessly replace the existing cup throughout its journey from supplier to user.

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.

We are fortunate to be at a stage where we have spent a full year researching, testing and investigating ways of manufacture for the product. Mentorship and funding would enable us to overcome a large barrier in achieving our ultimate goal of producing a product that not only aims to make the experience of drinking coffee better but could eliminate one of the world's largest single use waste products. Success would be to first start producing the cup then seeing it being used in multiple shops.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

All three members of the team met at university whilst completing a Btech in Industrial Design. The product started as a final year assignment, developing into a mutual passion project. The idea stemmed from a shared interest in designing for human enjoyment and the future of environmentally sustainable product design.

Tell us about your work experience

All three members of the creative team graduated from Cape Peninsula University of Technology last year (2016) with Btechs in Industrial Design and are currently all working in various areas of design


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Emma Gilpin 

As Refinement Phase quickly comes to a close in 8 hours, I want to remind you that the following must be submitted by tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

1. Submit the Refinement Questions Form online that was sent again via email yesterday evening--we have not yet received this from you. These questions are mandatory for Top Ideas consideration, so this should be your first priority in the final stretch.

2. A secondary priority, which is optional, is to update your Refinement Phase post. I see you've already updated your concept on the platform.

Looking forward to reviewing and celebrating the amazing work you've achieved this Refinement Phase!

Photo of Emma Gilpin

Hi Lauren

I Submitted the Refinement Questions Form last night, I hope it went through. What do you mean by Refinement Phase Post?


Photo of Vivek

Hello Team,

Brilliant report and great depth of work. I would suggest considering below:
Having a story which runs through out. The current piece is very modular and picks on various existing methodology. You might want to start with a higher order purpose for this and then bring it out through the product.

Also, some real time images would make sure that it does work in various circumstances.

Happy to chat more at

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Vivek!

It is great to have you on the platform and thank you for sharing your feedback. I would love to know more about your background and what attracted you to this challenge.

Photo of Emma Gilpin

Hi Vivek, Thanks for the suggestions. It's really helpful to gain different perspectives on how to better the product.

Photo of Vivek

Hi Kate,

Thanks for your message. I currently work as a full-time senior brand strategist in Dubai. I am also a mentor for startups and a certified mind map trainer.
The reason I was attracted to this challenge is that it is very objective and a problem to which we all have contributed in various degrees.
Happy to chat more.

Photo of Bhavya Singh

What a brilliant idea Emma Gilpin ! Glad this has gone through to the next stage. I can see it happening so close in the near future and hope it does. Off with those plastic caps on our coffee cups soon! :)

Photo of Emma Gilpin

Thanks Bhavya!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Emma and team!

There are 7 days left in the refinement phase.

If there is key information in the comments on your idea submission, I recommend that you move them to the main body of your idea submission before the cut-off time.

I just want to remind you that the deadline to complete the Refinement Questions via the online submission form is August 31 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Photo of Emma Gilpin

Hi Kate

Thank you for all the useful suggestions and comments :)
We are hard at work refining our idea and answering the relevant questions for the next phase. It will all be uploaded before the 31st.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Emma and team!

Welcome to refinement!

I just want to pull out some information from your report:

‘In setting the price the competators pricing was considered. For both the cup and the lid, proces
range from R1, 50 to R2, 00 per unit.

Due to the cancelation of the plastic lid (the most expensive element) this product intends to be
priced between 80c and R1,20 per unit, depending on certain veriable costs.’

Why have you chosen PLA? How long does this take to degrade? Are you relying on composting or recycling of the cup?

How would you encourage consumers to ensure that the cups go into the composting/recycling bin?

Would you be able to film video footage demonstrating that the containers are spill/leak proof? Ideally, footage testing the packaging to near the limit of normal wear and tear.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me by tagging me here (@ followed by my name) or send me an email -

I just want to remind you that the deadline to complete the Refinement Questions via the online submission form is August 31 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Emma Gilpin and thanks for engaging with our community throughout the Ideas Phase of this challenge! Looking ahead, I'm wondering if you've considered how branding might be integrated into your product.

Brands are powerful voices in the marketplace. How might the branding of your product/design/solution relay a compelling narrative to reduce the use of small-format plastics? How does the branding of your solution maximize its value in the local or global marketplace?

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Chinanu Nwaohangwa

Hello Emma and Ors,

I like your idea for its simplicity, but is such a great idea for this movement.

*Well done.

Photo of Simon Dunne

Great concept guys, and well developed so far! I'm curious if you've managed to run a pilot in a local coffee shop? If so, what did the user experience look like, both from the perspective of the drinker and the various employees that would need to stack/grab/fill/fold? Did you encounter any challenges? I'm also wondering about PLA coating...only compostable in industrial compost facilities, correct? Does it then make it less recyclable in places that don't have that service?

Photo of Troy Gardner

great insights Simon, agreed !:) . Also strongly enourage yall to look into workflow, sometimes this is dictated by franchise e.g. this is a pizza box foldout model where most cafes just have predone cups, so might expect that to fit into existing workflow, but you could create a service for foldout so it arrives similar to the existing cups.

You need to think about how this makes a person serving a line of people in compariable time and issues related to folding, getting cut on paper, spilling or getting burnt while folding closed, droppability, to the existing solution to win.

Photo of Emma Gilpin

Thanks Simon. A lot of time was spent during the development phase of the design, looking at all stakeholders in the life cycle of a takeaway cup in order to make sure that the experience offered by a new product would benefit everyone involved, including the environment.

We did some user testing with a variety of coffee drinkers using hand made prototypes and the feedback was encouragingly positive. We spent much time making the product easy to hold and sip from. The fact that it is leak and spill proof also aids the user experience.

In terms of coffee shops and baristas, we did some research with a few local cafes and found that a major issue for them is often the lids not fitting the cups and vice versa due to different manufacturers. Storage for lids was also noted as another annoyance experienced by the owners as space means more money. Eliminating the lid completely, not only makes it far more environmentally sustainable but easier for shops to order, use and store the product. This saves time and money.

Many closing methods were looked at, with the final design being chosen for its ease and simplicity for baristas to use. The idea being that the cups arrive at the coffee shop stacked like the existing cups do, allowing the barista to pick one up, fill it and flip the two flaps down to close. Or, more commonly, to pass it to the customer open for them to add extra sugar etc and close themselves.

Where the PLA coated material is concerned, we chose it as it is a widely available material at a similar cost to the PE coated material. As the product was initially designed for local manufacture, a material had to be chosen that was available at a low cost in Cape Town. Although the PLA paper is only compostable in facilities, it does biodegrade faster than the PE if it ends up in the environment. As the Gaami cup does not require a lid, it eliminates tons of plastic lid waste and manufacture resources.

We appreciate all the interest and hope this answers your questions, if not please let us know!

Photo of Emma Gilpin

Hi Troy, thanks for the feedback.

After talking to a few baristas and coffee shop owners, we wanted the product to fit within the existing distribution and storage model. So the cup is designed to be manufactured fully at the factory and stacked with the flaps open. The piles of cups are then delivered to the shops and stored, ready to be picked up by the barista and filled with coffee like a traditional takeaway cup. The user can then add extras and close the two flaps. The aim was to make the experience easier and not more time consuming as the takeaway industry is fast paced.

The elimination of the lid makes the takeaway unit cheaper, more environmentally friendly and also means less storage and transportation space needed.

Photo of Irina Ankudinova

It is simply beautiful! I think it will work in the reusable form too? Is it flat when transported?

Photo of Emma Gilpin

Hi Irina, thanks for the feedback! We experimented with making the design flatpack but due to manufacturing constraints it didn't work out, although it is still a possibility. The design is stackable for transportation and storage.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congratulations on being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Emma!

Excited to see you joining this challenge. We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top.

We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.