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The Dispensary

Inspired by innovations in the material memory and biodegradable space, we are centered around the big idea of "just use less".

Photo of Pearlfisher
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To solve something as small as straws, sometimes you need to think about the whole system: from manufacturing and transportation to delivery and usage. Inspired by innovations in the material memory and biodegradable space, as well as the idea of just using what you need, the team has conceptualized a scenario with a surprisingly simple solution – just use less.

By reimagining the shape of a straw from cylindrical to flat, and the material from which it is made, we have found a solution that not only uses less plastic overall, but overcomes the challenge that current recycling practices present: small-format plastic regularly slipping through the system.

We've achieved this by devising an alternative dispensation system based on a simple reel/cutter that rolls the flat straw material into a cartridge dispenser. Using material memory, the "flat" straw then pops into a cylindrical shape when extracted from the reel. This not only removes the need for a secondary straw sleeve to protect the straw from germs, but saves a extraordinary amount of air and space when transporting.

Engineering calculations show that the volume of 100 straws would be reduced by approximately 84% when using this new system. Using Cape Tech calculations, an average pallet currently holds 180,000 straws – this new system would enable 1,036,800! The impact of this is not only a solution specific to reducing plastic usage, but also specific to the amount of carbon produced to transport tonnage.

By combining this with the use of biodegradable material, we've also ensured that the environment will not be harmed should the small format of the straws cause them to fall through the recycling system.

In enabling individuals, restauranteurs and retailers to only use what they need – a long straw for a long cup, a short straw for a short cup, or anything in between – our reinvention of the straw as both a concept and a physical object not only uses less space but encourages more consciousness around the consumption of straws and their purpose.

Idea Title

The Dispensary: Just Use Less

Company / Organization Name


Website - we are a global team from Pearlfisher who are passionate about sustainability.

Where are you / your team located?

Pearlfisher's global teams are in New York, San Francisco, London and Copenhagen.

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

In combining our space saving idea with the specific use of biodegradable material, we've also ensured that the environment will not be harmed should the small format of the straws cause them to fall through the recycling system.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Our Idea applies directly to Case 3, which speaks to the small format case of straws. We're looking at providing a solution to the personas of Anne, who owns the coffee shop, and Nigel, the park cleaner.

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

Global, however preliminary focus is in the UK and US based on our expertise.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Beyond the prototyping and testing phases, our vision would be to introduce our ideas to existing and future partners within the CPG and Hospitality spaces. Barriers include manufacturing, supply chain management and quality control, which would be mitigated through a rigorous testing process and close consultation with manufacturers and their partners to ensure viability.

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 is to move beyond concept and move into prototyping and piloting of our program. Working with the TBP Accelerator Program will give us additional access to experts in the field, as well as enhance our network to ensure our solutions are both viable and reproducible at scale.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Our idea emerged from our initial research and follow-up brainstorms and concept work, and was carried out by Pearlfisher's global teams in New York, San Francisco, London and Copenhagen.

Tell us about your work experience

Our cross-functional team has a background ranging from industrial to graphic design, engineering to communications, with expertise in branding, consumer packaging, material futures, and strategy.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

We are a Partnership.

1 comment

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Photo of Troy Gardner

great idea, fyi we do similar with our ecopackets for 30ml of cold brew coffee, someday hope to get it automated by cheap 3d robot arms.