OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

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
16 13

Written by

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.


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! 


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. 


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.


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 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.


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.


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


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.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Camron Hinman

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

Photo of Lynn Johnson

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

View all comments