The Touchy Feely cup creates a framework for consumers to intuitively know these cups are compostable. By designing a tactile labeling system, we increase material recovery rates and dispel public confusion around materials and the waste stream. This design also addresses waste in our oceans/landscape by allowing waste to break down wherever it falls with increased rates of biological decomposition.
How It Works
By manufacturing new materials that look and feel similar to organic matter, we communicate to the consumer that this is a cup meant to break down biologically. These textures maximize surface area of the cup itself, allowing for accelerated degradation rates. Textured surfaces were inspired by fruit skins. Biomimetic patterns were chosen to recall surfaces that we might already consider as something one might ‘toss from a car window.’ Think banana or orange peels.
The Touchy Feely Cup would be manufactured for cold drinks in a biopolymer similar to the resin prototype shown above.
Hot cups in a fiber-based solution in mathematically based textures.
BiomimeticsBy designing surfaces from patterns inspired from Nature and Mathematics, we get the added benefit of maximized surface area which accelerates the biological degradation process.
These new materials will be conspicuously different than the materials they replace. Compostable, biodegradable cups can and should look completely different than any of the hot/cold to-go cups we’ve known as well as being easily digestible by the environment.
Materials + Recovery
The built-in haptic labeling system promotes higher rates of material understanding leading to greater material recovery. Consumers will intuitively know how to dispose of these cups by the way they feel and look.
This concept can be applied to a multitude of materials as long as they are rated for soil decomposition. Tests using material samples made from gelatin, agar and a mixture of the two produced materials that break down easily in living soils. Next, existing bio-based, petroleum-free, waxes applied to interior cup walls will test for liquid containment up to 5 hours.
The cold Touchy Feely Cup is in research to be manufactured from Novamont’s soil degradable Mater-Bi product, rated up to 100° C and breaks down in living soil. https://www.novamont.com/eng/mater-bi. This material is denser than water. If it enters the waterways, this material will sink and degrade in soils on the ocean floor. Mater-Bi is soil and marine degradable.
Currently researching further soil positive solutions for hot cup solutions. SuStar's fiber-based materials makes a good case for a hot cup analog that is soil positive. Inks will be bio-based and soil compatible. http://earthvisionbio.com/
These cups will be made to food safety and industry standards. Only the exterior is textured, the interior cup walls remain smooth.
material samples in gelatin:
Research + Collaboration
This design was built on interviews and collaborations with local waste management, Rhode Island Recovery Resource Center, Field's Point waste water facility chemical engineers, MIT Mediated Matter designers, marine biologists from the Rhode Island School of Design Nature Lab, biotech firm GingkoBioworks synthetic biologists, local business owners and investigations of the local waste stream and surrounding waterways.