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A Complete Plastic Metamorphosis

We design products for zero waste to eliminate landfill, reduce carbon emissions and improve our environment

Photo of Joseph Mulabbi
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This growing reliance on plastic to fuel our “culture of convenience” is not without cost. Globally, an average of eight million tons of plastic escapes collection systems, winding up in the environment and eventually the ocean. Once there, sunlight and currents shred plastic debris into smaller particles called microplastics, which attract and concentrate toxic chemicals up the marine food chain and into our bodies. Recent studies estimate that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic by weight than fish in the ocean. Plastic acts as a toxic conveyor belt, sponging pollutants from surrounding air and water into the tissues of everything that eats it.

From plankton to fish, and to humans that eat seafood, plastic pollution is changing the very chemistry of life. Much of the problem stems from the use of plastic a material essentially designed to last forever for applications such as disposable shopping bags and coffee cups, products that are designed to be used for a few minutes and then thrown away.

Plastic straws and coffee lids are common throughout our environment. Like bottle caps, plastic straws and coffee lids float, which threatens wildlife and contributes to the growing ocean plastic epidemic.

Furthermore, coffee and beverage cup lids are another high-pollution item. Coffee lids are typically made from polystyrene; styrene, a primary component of polystyrene, is a suspected human carcinogen, and is shown to leach from products into food or beverages.

The best alternative would be to substitute these non-biodegradable straws and lids with a biodegradable straw or lid but more importantly revamp the whole coffee cup plus the lid and straw to wooden ones thus, Biodegradable straws, coffee cups and lids.

Think cost-effective. Serving drinks with wooden bamboo cups and straws might be costly, but it’s a one-time investment. Furthermore, disposable straws run out quickly and need constant replacement. If you are an established business, you might be able to save more by investing in straws that will last, rather than spending repeatedly on disposables every week or month.

From our analysis, we believe there are five core strategies that can help us become more innovative to solve plastic pollution now:

REDUCE: Drastically reduce the use of plastic for single-use disposable products and packaging. It makes no sense to use a material designed to last forever for a product that’s designed to last a few minutes.

REDESIGN: Shift design away from harmful plastics toward a) providing the goods or services in ways that don’t use packaging at all, b) substituting with bio benign materials made from sustainable materials like wood or glass, and c) designing products and packaging for end-of-life, including opportunities for reuse before material recovery for remanufacture.

REUSE & RECYCLE: Scale and replicate Zero Waste reuse, recycling and composting policies and strategies funded in part by the companies that put products into the market in the first place.

REIMAGINE: We are hard at work designing the materials of the 21st century that can provide for humanity’s needs without causing harm. We need to be supported through investment and adoption.

RETHINK PROGRESS: Shift consciousness to replace the “throw-away society” with a culture of stewardship that questions the role of plastic in our economy and seeks to transition to a Zero Waste future.

Idea Title

A Complete Plastic Metamorphosis

Company / Organization Name

Youth Contact Association is a registered non-governmental organization based in Uganda. Aimed at fighting for social economic development


No website yet

Where are you / your team located?

Youth Contact Associations is based in Uganda-Africa

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

More collection and recycling of plastics can help, but these strategies are unlikely to keep pace with the massive projected increase in the use of plastic. From our analysis, the most effective strategy to solve the problem of plastic pollution is to drastically reduce the use of single-use, disposable plastic and embrace the new innovations of bamboo wooden made products such as take-away coffee cups, lids, straws, take-out containers etc.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

This research directly responds to the challenges faced by Use Cases 2 and 3 by staging an everlasting solution to straws, coffee cups and lids plastic waste. our wooden designs can replace any plastic as long as we intentionally design the product for a specific use for instance to-go drinks and foods. We design wooden products ranging from cups, plates, straws, buckets, bottle caps and tear-offs which are reusable and convenient for the user.

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

This idea will be implemented in any geographical region of the world, but is most pressing in East Africa and Africa where small-format plastic waste is the greatest economic and ecological challenge.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

We envision to get setbacks from our audience including market competition, product rejects, insufficient funds and extra, but on the contrary we are much aware of the obstacles and therefore different measures have been put in place to overcome them for instance comprehensive marketing plans including freebies, sales on discount, build partnerships, customer relationships and extra.

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.

Our goal would be to gain credibility which would help leverage support from governments & organisations around the world. We would strive to minimise the cost as much as possible for businesses to choose our products over plastic alternatives. We would thrive under the direction of industry experts & researchers who can guide me down the path to make the largest impact possible. The financial grant would also assist in larger production & lowering the cost to consumers.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

This product idea was conceived by members of Youth Contact Association a non governmental organization in Uganda. The team worked to bring about an everlasting solution to the global problem of plastic waste management in Uganda but also globally.

Tell us about your work experience

We are are a team of professionals, entrepreneurs, innovators in diverse fields in ICT, environment, social workers, designers and specialists in other fields.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Youth Contact Association is a registered Non Government Organization in Uganda working as a think tank for social economic growth and development.

Inspired by (1)

Leash the lid

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Thanks for joining the challenge, Joseph Mulabbi ! We are excited to have you onboard.

Would love to get to know your team a bit better, and the perspectives you bring to this challenge. Who else is working with you on this idea? Please provide a 1-2 sentence bio and/or LinkedIn profile for each member of your team in the Tell Us About Your Work Experience section of your post. To update your post, hit the Edit Contribution button at the to of your post. Scroll down to your Full Description field. Then click Save after you’re done updating.

Looking forward to learning more!