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STA-CAPS: The "Push-in Bottle Caps" that open the bottle for consumption while staying with the bottle for recycling after opening!

Reduce plastic pollution significantly by redesigning bottle caps that push-in to open the bottle and stay with the bottle for recycling.

Photo of Soma Bhargava
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The invention of "Sta-Tabs" in the 1970s had the single biggest impact on reducing pollution from aluminium and steel cans. By not allowing the tabs to separate from the can as a multi-part element of the packaging allowed recycling of the can as a whole. This was particularly important as the tabs once used were a low value nuisance, that easily leaked into the environment causing injury to humans, animals, and the environment.

Learning from this iconic shift in packaging design, we apply the same design principles to come up with a "Sta-Cap" bottle cap. This cap will use a "push-in" approach to open the bottle versus a "twist-off and remove" approach. The force used to push open the bottle will activate the locking mechanism that will keep the cap with the bottle. 

The inspiration for this design thinking came from observing Jellyfish and how they move in water. They use principles based in physics and jet propulsion to thrust themselves while taking advantages of ocean currents. The same principles can be applied to the design of Sta-Caps that would use the push-in force to propel the bottle to open. What else do Jellyfish and plastic bottles have in common? They both have the potential to live on forever! A sobering thought.

Another reference would be the Codd neck bottle that was patented by the British soft drink maker Hiram Codd in 1872. Such designs are still used in the Japanese soft drink Ramune and in the Indian drink called Banta. This bottle design from the past was effective in the use case for drink storage and deliver but at a time when plastic was not an option. Given the current growing concern of plastic waste, is plastic without circular usage still an option?

The deign outcomes for Sta-Caps will be achieved by a collaborative open design and open source effort allowing the best minds in the world to work on this problem. The solutions would be human centered to enable the use cases for plastic bottles and to not limit them. Limiting innovation though proprietary or protected intellectual property would not allow the solution to scale. The solution may also need to be adapted to be locally relevant in different geographies based on cost and other considerations. Plastics bottles and caps are cheap and enduring - these properties make them a material of choice for fluid distribution. By taking a more innovative approach to the structure using design thinking principles, will help change the topology from linear to circular by recycling and /or up cycling plastic waste.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

Even though plastic bottle caps are recyclable, they often don't get recycled as they become essentially useless once the bottle is opened. While almost all of these caps originate from land based sources, they leak into the waterways and eventually into the oceans. These caps easily breakdown in the marine environment and are ingested by marine life and birds. The impact on oceans is devastating. The informal waste collection sector has no incentive to collect these caps as they have no value.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Challenging designers to come up with a bottle cap design that stays with the PET bottles after opening can significantly reduce plastic bottle caps that pollute the environment. The current packaging design with multiple parts that uses a sealing cap that becomes separated from the bottle and essentially useless after opening limits recycling. The solution can scale and have a global impact.

Tell us about yourself

I am a concerned homemaker who routinely encounters single uses plastic packaging. I'm inspired to action by my two daughters who are my collaborators in this submission. They are researching ocean plastic pollution and driving substantive actions in our community through their youth organization.

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Photo of Paul Sharp

Nice idea, solves the problem of lost caps.
Could this be applied to refillable bottling systems?
Have you seen the vintage codd soda bottle with it's integral, self contained closure?
Ramune soda in Japan still uses the Codd design.

Spam
Photo of Soma Bhargava

Thanks Paul - the idea should work on all kinds of bottles including refillable bottles. Just researched the Codd design (http://www.bottlebooks.com/Codd/an_act_of_codd.htm) - thanks for the reference.