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Huskup - The Closed Loop Coffee Cup

A compostable cup made of the very material that is disposed of during the coffee production process - the coffee bean’s husk and pulp.

Photo of Lisa Pesok
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Idea Title


Idea Summary

A compostable take-away cup composed of the very material that is disposed of during the coffee production process - the coffee bean’s very own husk and pulp.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Engineers Without Borders - New York Professional

Website (if applicable)

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

First image is some options for cup form. As the cup would be molded, it would allow for forms with curves and edges as shown. The second image is the form we think will work best.

As it stands, there are approximately 1.35 million tons of husk waste generated from the coffee production industry, per year. The goal is to divert the by-product materials and form a compostable alternative cup.

Technical: The coffee fruit is comprised of an outer skin, called the husk, a layer of pulp beneath that, and a type of parchment that wraps the bean, also known as the hull. These materials have their individual properties but a combination of the skin and pulp can potentially form a water proof, and temperature-retaining form. We can compress these materials within a cup-shaped mold, and if necessary, allow mycelium to grow within the remaining pores of the material to form a watertight seal. As these are all organic materials, we wouldn't run into chemical leaching from container to the liquid it is holding. 

Business: As manufacturers would buy the coffee bean by-products, this business plan would incentivize coffee production facilities to collect their waste and become zero-waste facilities. This would in turn potentially boost the economy and protect the local water from contamination. 

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup
  • Cup Sleeve
  • Reusable System

How is your concept recoverable?

First and foremost, every aspect of this cup would be compostable. By only using the coffee bean roasting by-products, as well as compostable binding solutions like mycelium (or gypsum), we ensure that all components will decompose. The materials used to create the cup would be diverted waste materials, otherwise being disposed of, and at consumer can feel safe composting the material in their own yard. The composting process of this cup can be a visual contribution back to the earth, where the consumer can drop the cup off not at a garbage can, but by a repository near a tree, or a small park they pass by. Perhaps users can create interesting visuals with the cups they bring to the parks, contributing to designs in the soil (as one might make with flower arrangements). The purpose of this would be to get the consumer in the habit of returning material to the earth, while feeling a sense of purpose and community as they do it.

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

Solution would divert the waste produced by coffee bean stripping/roasting facilities. This waste has been used as either fertilizer or bedding for animals, but is more often disposed to the landfill or into a local water source, which pollutes the water with caffeine, tannins, polyphenols and organic solid residues. Sourcing materials from coffee production facilities, this forms a closed loop that helps bring awareness directly into the consumers’ hands as they drink from this cup.

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

By diverting coffee production waste from local waters, we are preventing toxins from entering the water stream and assisting the local region in the effort for cleaner water. This sort of pollution can affect areas like rural Ethiopia and Colombia, and anywhere where there is a strong infrastructure built around coffee production. As aforementioned, this can also incentivize production facilities to sell what would otherwise be waste and get closer to becoming a zero waste facility.

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

Many people do not know where their coffee comes from, who harvests it, how it is produced, and the many components of the coffee fruit and where they go. They are unaware of the steps that are involved in getting that coffee (and the cup that’s holding it) into your hands. By using a coffee by-product to hold and drink the coffee, I hope to reconnect the consumer with the production process of coffee and just how much is involved in this daily ritual. By using this product, I would hope to awaken an awareness of our environment and fellow humans, and the ever-growing need to think about forming circular economies.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing

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

One gap would be getting the actual material to test on, as I am not located near any coffee farms or production facilities. However, by forming relationships with coffee producers and asking them to contribute materials, this might not be an issue. R&D support would most likely be the biggest challenge, as it would be helpful to have a professional in alternative materials and manufacturing processes contribute their expertise, as well as facilities to test if we are talking about scaling to larger production.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Sustainability and Recoverability
  • Product / Industrial Design and Prototyping
  • Growth and Scaling

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

The Appropriate Technology Design Team of EWB NY Professional Chapter researches and develops technology towards alleviating global challenges I am an Industrial designer studying UI/UX design, passionate about solving sustainability issues!

In what city are you located?

New York

In what country are you located?


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


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

I would utilize the accelerator for R+D of materials and manufacturing, using the funding to develop the best ways to recover and use the material. I.e. what combinations of husk/pulp/hull would yield the best solid and un-permeable material, and if this material needs the assistance of a binding material, like mycelium. Simultaneously I would be exploring ethical large scale manufacturing options that would support business and consumer needs while remaining sustainable.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • OpenIDEO announcement email

This inspired (1)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lisa Pesok

Hi Koldun Victor , thank you for your comment!
To be very honest, I would need to do testing on the material and combinations of materials in order to properly answer your question (as pointed out in the brief above).
Several iterations of materials that I'm thinking about are a just the hard husks held together by a natural sealant, a combination of husks and mycelium as the component that holds the husks together and creates a waterproof seal, or perhaps either one of these possibilities with a natural lining such as beeswax to create a seal that will protect the husks in the cases that the material is too affected by the moisture and heat.

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