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S-CUP and S-COVER | Integrated Drinking Straw

Increasing plastic recovery and recycling with straw integration, while considering its practical adoption

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PLASTIC STRAWS: SOLVING THE BIG SMALL PROBLEM

Although a single plastic straw seems innocuous as a pollutant due to its small size, it becomes a gigantic contributor to plastic pollution due to the enormous volume used daily—in America alone, 500 million pieces are used every day. A big portion of this never get recycled due to its size and types of plastic used, and end up in landfills or bodies of water where it further breaks down into microplastics that eventually enter our food chain upon ingestion by aquatic life.

In the Philippines, unrecycled plastics is a huge ecological problem as well, being a huge market for the sachet economy and no strong approach to facilitate systematic recycling. It ranks third in the world for being one of the worst plastic polluters of the ocean. The reality of hundreds of thousands of plastic straws never being properly recycled is evident in the troubling volumes of plastic straws collected during repeated local coastal cleanups.

There are and have been many calls worldwide for the ban on plastic straws. Although I personally agree with it as being the most effective solution to curb this problem, one cannot deny the convenience it affords users; I cannot see retail food businesses (fast food chains, especially) doing away with it voluntarily-- not without tough political will banning it. Many alternatives have been put on the table for businesses shift to and make drinking straws as green as possible (e.g. glass, bamboo, metal), but businesses never really adopted it and so the problem of plastic straws persists. The dilemma is understandable: how can a business roll out these expensive green alternatives at massive volumes daily? What can encourage them to take a step towards being more green and see it won’t hurt their business?

With this in mind, alternatives and modifications to the design of the cup+cover+straw set need to work within a pragmatic framework and the S-CUP and S-COVER are guided and addresses the three main points:

  • Convenience: the S-CUP and S-COVER retain the simplicity of use of the vacuum straw for their customers’ convenience
  • Non-Disruptive: adoption of the S-CUP or S-COVER result to minimal operational/workflow disruption and change, including inventory storage and transport
  • Cost Efficiency: the S-CUP and S-COVER essentially use the same design and material (PP, PET, HIPS) as their current cups making costing very competitive


While meeting all three business concerns, the S-CUP and S-COVER manage to address the recycling problems by using a uniform type of plastic for the entire set, increasing the size of the pieces by integrating the straw to the cup and cover, and eliminates the straw as a separate item. Not only does this increase the rate of recovery and recyclability for each set, but increases the possibility of businesses actually adopting this alternative and completely removing separate plastic straws from their inventory.

We are also considering the inclusion of a Recycler Collection System to systematically ensure maximum amount of these highly recyclable S-CUP and S-COVER is directly transferred from the food establishment to recycling centers. Though aligned with the competition's overall vision, this would expand the scope of the S-CUP/S-COVER project, so we welcome the input of judges/advisors if this could be included or not. 

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

Majority of plastic straws escape the recycling pathway: due to its small size, it never reaches trash collection points or falls through the cracks during recycling sorting phase; being made from many types of plastic, these are discarded to landfills if its plastic type differs from what the facility processes. Making the straw an integrated and solid part of the cup and its cover, it solves these problems by increasing its total size and using a uniform type of plastic for the entire set.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

The S-CUP and S-COVER apply to Case 3 (Nigel) where small format plastic straws escape the recycling pathway due to its size and plastic type.

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

This problem is pervasive in urban, semi urban and rural areas, be it from personal/home use or retail food establishments, in all countries regardless of economic standing. S-CUP and S-COVER can be applied anywhere.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Businesses look at costing before making any change in their current materials. To encourage the shift to the S-CUP or S-COVER, production needs to be at a high volume to achieve a competitive price point, so testing this out with an actual fast food chain will be a good case study. They are also the perfect starting point being organized channels that can cascade this to their branches. When smaller businesses see its successful adoption, they will follow suit (by choice or maybe required to).

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.
  • 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.

The award can allow us to invest work time and effort on this project. It can also can enable us to network with involved experts in plastics production, business, and the food industry to ask for guidance regarding certain aspects of the project. Also, recognition by this competition can give the S-CUP and S-COVER some weight to gain serious corporate consideration which will enable us to find a company willing to partner with us and participate in an adoption trial.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

A pragmatic look at why (fast)food companies have not shifted to the already existing myriad of green straw solutions (e.g. bamboo, steel, glass, cornstarch, paper). To achieve any level of consideration, design modifications and alternatives need to take into account their concerns, particularly customer convenience, ease of adoption and most importantly, comparative costing, all while trying to achieve green objectives.

Tell us about your work experience

My work has been in the line of corporate marketing support and design. For any project, I appreciate the parameters clients need to work within, as well as my role to push or maximize it.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Entrepreneur, potentially shifting to social entrepreneurship that includes environmental advocacy as a focus.

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Team

Hi Van!

We have received your Refinement Phase Submission Questions! Just a friendly reminder that the Phase closes tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. PT. so please update your contribution on the platform before the deadline.

Thank you for all your work this Refinement Phase and for being member of the OpenIDEO Community!

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