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

Sustainable Cup Strategy

We propose a multi-point strategy towards sustainability/recoverability of disposable cups.

Photo of Yunong Jiao
4 1

Written by

Idea Summary

We propose a multi-point strategy towards sustainability/recoverability of disposable cups to identify the most sustainable option for different locations and build a global sustainability database.

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

The system helps to identify the most sustainable disposable cup options, also would work as a global sustainability database provides valuable information and benefits for different stakeholders.

We propose a multi-point strategy towards sustainability/recoverability of disposable cups to identify the most sustainable option for different locations and build a global sustainability database.

  1. Product design: Through a simple adjustment to how paper cups are produced, we can reduce the physical space taken up by each cup when thrown in the trash. We propose the design of new patterns for paper cup production that will allow for quick and easy dismantling without the costs associated with

  1. Consumer education: We propose a grading system for disposable cups. The education program will inform consumers about the recoverability of each paper cup. Implemented by the challenge partners, it will have a significant impact on how consumers perceive the disposable cup. 

  1. Localization+Material innovation: We will develop a framework for localizing production of the disposable cup that leverages local resources to produce cups that are sustainable for specific regions. this framework will take into account available resources, logistics networks, and consumer habits. A sustainability calculator will be developed and used to help companies determine how to source their disposable utensils.
    We propose the rollout of cups made from stone paper in selected markets. (Those with facilities capable of recovering/recycling stone paper. If successful, this program will pave the way to potentially replace all regular paper cups with more environmentally friendly cups.  

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • All of the Above

How is your concept recoverable?

The world is complex and the environmental problems vary from different locations. Our solution tackles the disposable cup problem globally by evaluating the best solutions for each location with a standardized and easy to conduct systematic strategy. The real problem is more than the paper cups are not being recycled so the paper resources are wasted. The key problem is that in many areas, sustainable materials are being used inappropriately, neglected or wasted, cause serious environmental problems. The paper is only one case. For example, in some areas in India, agricultural residues are burnt and cause severe air pollution, however, they are actually great pulp materials to create fiber cups. In order to identify the truly best disposable cup options for different areas, we created this system by evaluating different factors that are affecting the product's environmental influence, and allow the companies to pick the most environmentally friendly and cost-efficient solution.

How have you incorporated additional sustainability attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution?

In spite of creating a more sustainable cup for the society, the companies, users, governments, recycling companies, investors, and other stakeholders would also benefit from the big data that the calculator builds. With the data, the companies would be able to access material and user data, governments can refer to the data to understand the area's environmental situation, recycling companies get to know where to build the next plant and the investors know if the plant is solving the problem.

What regions do you plan to address with your solution (and how will you accomplish this)?

The strategy system is tackling the problem from regions to regions, and eventually, build a big systematic solution for this global issue. The strategy system can be addressed anywhere in the world where a sustainable fiber cup is needed.

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

The strategy system would be able to work for any companies that are trying to find a way to sort a more sustainable fiber cup option. The companies benefit from the strategy for it helps them build a better and more sustainable image to the public and the cup design helps them reduce the distribution cost of the trash. People who care about sustainability would love to know the information and the collapsible cups helps the users and citizens save space in either home or street trash cans. The localization helps the society to generate new jobs and stimulate the local economy. Government, investors and other stakeholders can access the data and use it. Environment benefits from it as well.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing
  • Prototyping

What are the biggest challenges you are facing today? What are existing gaps in your solution?

1. We need support with scaling since the solution needs to reach lots of different area in the world. 2. We need technical support to build the database. 3. Fiber cup supply chain experts' advice about the standards we set in the calculator. 4. Industrial design experts' advice on the design of the collapsible cup.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Supply Chain
  • Product / Industrial Design and Prototyping
  • Growth and Scaling

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

As a team consisting of Strategic Design and Management students at Parsons, we believe we can analyze this complex issue and develop a strategy that mobilizes stakeholders to co-design a solution towards sustainability.

In what city are you located?

New York City

In what country are you located?

United States

What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)

Partnership. We are a team of strategists from Parsons School of Design.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

The strategy system is trying to solve the problem from local to global. The system would need lots of information input to provide valuable output back to the companies, users, society and other stakeholders. We would test the design of the cup with different material, build and test the database, and test the strategy system in different locations.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

Attachments (1)

Sustainable Cup Strategy.pdf

This is the report of the Sustainable Cup System.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Pang DX

Hi Yunong,
I read your team's proposed sustainable solution of collapsible cup with the multi-point strategy, and like it very much. Feel resonating and applicable to the community at large. Wish you all the best to achieve success.

Regarding Product Design, can consider Design for X (DfX) technique looks into the design's physical aspects of shape, weight, size, and modularity to optimize the cup's physical space for easier dismantling.
For Material Innovation, can consider the following logical linkages:
1) Consumer habits & feedback > Consumer requirements
2) Consumer requirements > Product characteristics
3) Product characteristics + Local Environmental regulations > Product specifications
4) Product specifications > Process characteristics
5) Process characteristics > Process specifications
6) Process specifications > Resources and Logistics requirements

These are just my humble and personal thoughts. Cheers.

Photo of Yunong Jiao

Hey Pang,

We are so glad that you like our idea! Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts!

I believe that I have heard of this DfX toolbox, thank you for bringing it up, we would definitely look into it in the following step. And yes in the next step, we would do more research about the logical linkages and build a more reasonable and detailed material innovation strategy. The one you mentioned surely would be very helpful for our next step research. Thank you again!

Photo of Pang DX

Welcome :)

Photo of Yunong Jiao

The complete file is in the attachment, please feel free to check it out!
For some reason, the technical overview is not showing up correctly, please refer to the second image in our prototype visuals :)