It would be worth changing the shape of the cup just to slash the plastic coated, manufacturing cutoff wastes from 50% to zero and to reduce the shipping, handling and storage footprints by half. Radically changing the shape and the way the new cup is made also allows us to handle the paper in a much gentler fashion meaning we can use coarser grained, lower grade, lower process, lower impact fibres. Such as very minimally processed end of the line, last possible time around, post consumer fibers in our innovative core layer design. Or just as importantly, very low grade and process papers from agricultural and agri textile wastes, or fast growing fiber intentional crops, such as hemp or grasses. By starting from scratch and completely redesigning the fiber cup we achieved some very significant new options for using less material, lower grade material, with less waste, smaller shipping footprints and better renewal options. It's exciting to see columbiapulp.net up and running; they are North Americas first dedicated full scale, large production run, agricultural waste fibers paper mill. They buy wheat wastes from farmers who would normally pay hefty permit fees to burn these wastes off. Columbiapulp.net is also using a revolutionary and very efficient process that uses far less water and energy and creates less emissions to produce lower cost papers. A similar, less proprietary, not quite as efficient model has been in use, in China and India and a few other countries for sometime now. Certainly with such a good profile and with consumer awareness and pressure on the rise, we will see more of these types of operations coming on line in the near future.
We can of course, use fibers from FSC woodlots for the time being and just process them less and that will still be a big improvement, particularly when combined with fibercup.ecos other savings. But obviously our goal will be to maximize and capitalize fully upon fibercup.eco's new attributes and utilize the lowest grade, lowest impact fibers and papers we can source. We will most definitely be looking to work with columbiapulp.net and similar operations as they come online.
We think it's great to produce conventional items such as copy paper or disposable cups and food-ware with new lower impact materials and processes, as it is a form of benchmarking, that we can all instantly relate to. But what really gets us enthusiastic about fibercup.eco and our new genre of beverage containers is the one two punch, of being able to use new lower impact and process materials, combined with newly designed, lower impacting products. Part of entering this collaborative effort is to get help, accurately calculating the actual savings involved, when comparing conventional cups to ours. We think that the number will be so significant, that prospective stakeholders will be more focused on it, rather than the effort, that is required to get there.
With our new construction method, we incorporate an isolated core of extremely low grade paper with a much higher percentage of post consumer content, than was previously possible. This core is not seen during use and does not come into contact with the liquid beverage, the consumers mouth or hand. This is the opposite of conventional cups, which unavoidably leaves a seam of paper exposed to the beverage, limiting post consumer content for health concerns. This exposed seam also pushes us in the direction of fine grained high process papers to reduce absorption and the risk of particle migration into the beverage.
Using lower process, open cell papers is naturally insulating and will keep beverages in the desired temperature range longer. This insulating effect is made stronger by the open celled molded fiber lid.
Fibercup.eco is 100% backyard or municipally compostable with a non petroleum based PLA heat stable liner rather than a bonded coating. This composting compatibility means that every entity, large or small in the world, regardless of its state of recoverability capabilities, has at least one viable, low impact way to next life cycle the product once it is used. Toss it into the green bin or into your composter; this level of convenience is a realistic expectation, of most users. The non bonded layered construction of fibercup.eco allows it to also be easily deconstructed by hand or simple mechanical means for low complexity and impact recycling.
The improvements mentioned so far would be more than enough to justify retooling. But this new approach also creates a way to displace billions of plastic, glass, and metal beverage containers and the shipping, handling and storage of water weight and volume associated with them. This spin off benefit of the redesign, is a new genre of beverage containers that forms a truly significant and previously non existent bridge, between takeaway cups and the much higher impact of using plastic, glass and metal beverage containers. Now when your needs are a just a little greater than what a takeaway cup can provide, you are not forced to make the huge leap to higher impact plastic, glass, and metal containers.
These new containers use the same tooling as for the "ships flat fiber cups" and are comprised of the same materials but are slightly more robust in construction. They are configured to be formed and aseptically filled and sealed on demand. They can easily be put in a bag or backpack and are designed to be used over the course of a few hours or days, with about the same resiliency as lightweight single use plastic bottles and aluminum cans. We feel that a designed service period of a few hours or days at most, is in keeping with how people actually use single serving beverages, purchased one at a time for personal hydration on the go. With R&D into the right materials, we feel that period of use could be easily extended to be more on par with conventional plastic, glass and metal containers.
This would open up opportunities for the approach to be used with bulk purchasing of beverages such as 6-12-24 unit packs, for long storage periods and also larger sizes such as 1 & 2 litre containers. Shipped bottled water is of course 100% water, diet sodas are around 99% water, regular soft drinks are about 90% water, and fruit juices and iced dairy coffees come in around 80-85% water. This new form of ships flat fiber container will ship zero water and have an empty shipping, handling, and storage footprint that is 80% less than full or empty, conventional rigid containers. Offsets for syrups, sugars, concentrates and condiments are already factored into this equation.
Think 2 trucks instead of 10 trucks to get your product into consumers hands. A full single use, plastic bottle of water, weighs 10 times more than an empty ships flat fiber bottle and is 8 times greater in volume. I think we would all be ecstatic, if we could use this new way of thinking and approach just to address the "scourge" of single use, plastic water bottles. These savings potentials will also transfer to the storage and handling footprint in warehouses, staging areas and in ultra high cost per square foot, retail spaces.
The next section goes into a fair amount of detail about how the ships flat, form on demand concept can change the way we distribute and dispense beverages, with much lower impact and a better more interactive customer experience. It also discusses a few non sustainable benefits, made possible by the redesign, that we feel from a business point of view, are important for justification of retooling.
Envision this new form of aseptically filled and sealed on demand "micro bottling plant" packaging to be paired with premium ingredients prepared by dedicated workers or by general staff during slow periods in food units and coffee shops. Items might be as simple as bottled water or items like high quality fresh made (with no preservatives), iced coffees, tea's, fruit juices from fresh ingredients or concentrates, carbonated sodas etc. This form of packaging could be also teamed up with fountain style dispensing units such as "Coca Colas Freestyle" machines (see video in the next sections) in convenience stores and food outlets. Consumers could select our "now much lower impact " compostable takeaway cups for quick use or to enjoy with a meal or they could opt for our sealed and more robustly designed beverage container for longer duty, transportation or short term storage. The printing and forming machines might be stand alone units or they might be incorporated with the filling machines. This would extend the market reach of these environmentally friendly " Free style" machines and and basically create a micro bottling plant right next to the consumer, and in the process, displace billions of higher impact plastic, glass or metal containers.
These types of machines and next or different generations of them, could mix and dispense a range of hot and cold beverages (or separate machines for hot and cold) with speed and 100% consistency. They might dispense into our greatly reduced impact, hot or cold takeaway style cups, or they might bottle ingredients into our low impact sealed containers. They might be in various levels of service, food outlets, convenience stores or for remote vending locations. (stand alone is fine now because of aseptic filling, sealing and dispensing.) Thousands of flat containers are loaded into hoppers above the machine (which is often dead space). They are only printed on demand as needed for whatever beverage is dispensed.
Heavy syrups, concentrates, liquid condiments and CO2 are loaded in the bottom. Nothing except perishables, will be refrigerated until it is dispensed. No more refrigerated vending machines or huge banks of display cases, holding huge amounts of product in a refrigerated state 24-7-365 with constantly open doors. Users of this culture shift, will make selections on flat panel displays or from their personal devices which will also make payment seamless.
Once a product is selected the container is printed and formed on demand, the water required is filtered and chilled or heated and mixed with the appropriate ingredients and then aseptically filled and sealed into the container. Consumers will have full control over blends, sweetness, amount of condiments etc. When these types of machines are in locations that have semi skilled food staff there is no reason why they couldn't dispense premium to ultra premium items with a little support and just parts of the machines having refrigerated areas. Think along lines of dairy products, iced coffees with fresh dairy, dairy drinks blended with crushed blended ice, barista style freshly made ground coffee concentrates beverages etc. The machines once loaded with these premium ingredients would dispense complex, custom beverages very quickly and with far better than human accuracy, consistency and sanitation. Consumers would have complete control, for instance having 1-20 sweetness levels etc. Once customers find their perfect mix, they save the presets for future purchases. With one simple tap, via online ordering, lineups could be eliminated, GPS tracking (with permission ) could tell the system exactly when to start preparing your order. Regardless of demand levels or the complexity or variety of items on the menu, line ups and product ready pileups, could be eliminated. You get exactly what you want, placed in your hand just as you arrive, with 100% consistency. Picking up for groups of people, would be no problem as they would just share their presets with you. The on demand printing would write the names of each persons order, on the respective cups or containers. A small but very important bonus, with this hands off, carburetor mixing and jetted stream approach to dispensing drinks and condiments directly into the containers would be the elimination of plastic and wood stir sticks....yeah!!
Rethinking and reconfiguring for sustainability could and should also be about new opportunities and overall improvements and advancements. Not just about the logistics to get there.
Just to reiterate, some of these ideas are about sustainability and some of them are just about the overall benefits created from change. I always try to remain conscious that designing for environmental and business sustainability, needs to be one and the same. Many of the benefits described here are only made possible by the creation of the "ships flat, print on demand, form on demand" cups and containers.
There is potential for interactive, real time, face recognition, (with permission) created by volunteered profile or possibly linked to social media accounts. Paired with regionally aware and targeted advertising to be printed on the containers. For instance, older male person equals local car show, younger female customer equals upcoming Taylor Swift concert etc. Advertising that actually relates to your interests, that feels more like a service to you, has been happening with Google for sometime now.
On demand printing, facilitating printing bar codes that would be scanned by personal devices to do instant win, in store giveaways, or build credits for free drinks or online available merchandise or for cross promotion of free concert tickets to an advertised neighbourhood, localized or regional event or promotion etc. Scan this barcode to get last minute pricing, for events or airfares out of town, equating to more sold out venues and fuller planes.
Picture a non refrigerated, remote location vending machine that can dispense 1000's of beverages and will only call you when it needs help. No person or truck will ever have to transport a single drop of water to this unit. Intuitively this equates to lower impacts and higher profits.
Since fibercup.eco is a complete redesign of the cup and lid, we feel it is entirely possible to design away the use of a separate straw, in favor of a formed fibre spout version, with a slip in or screw on and off protective cap. The formed fiber lid will be created and produced by the proliferation of fine pulp forming companies that are rising up to meet the increasing demand for parts and packing solutions that don't use formed plastics. The quality, precision, and design capabilities of these companies is such that anything seems possible to achieve. Thanks to the Next Gen Cup Challenge we are also aware of and looking to collaborate with another participant "Earth Vision" who have a material that might displace the fiber lid we are considering.
Blown film liners are a well established, widespread technology. The list and types of environmentally conscious films and plant based adhesives is large and growing rapidly. We have also done some work with micro thin layers of silicone on FSC papers that are backyard compostable. Silicon of course is widely available and dispersed all around the planet and can be procured and produced on a small scale, in closed system zero emission electric arc ovens. The added advantage is not using any food stocks or resources to form polymeric linings.
As the population grows and food production swells, so proportionately would the amount of cheap, easily available, close proximity, waste agricultural and agri textile fibers. This is the opposite of most materials and resources including trees, that tend to become more finite and therefore more expensive with growing populations. With trees specifically, the sources for them, become further and further away, thus creating additional transportation costs and impacts. Fibercup.eco and containers radical design and particularly the core layers can use very low grade agricultural waste fibres from most crops from all around the world. For instance after the better parts of sugarcane wastes are separated out to make premium papers, fibercup.eco steps in to use what's left. Mass can be supplemented with the waste from food processing operations, things like seed and nut husks, coffee grounds, egg shells, and peanut shells from processing peanut butter etc. We need to proactively find and design more and better ways to use these waste food production fibers (directly from the field or from food processing facilities) in the lowest impact ways possible. Low value, single use paper products is a good place to start. Companies that do embrace this type of model will have have a long term, sustainable, global solution at their disposal.
We arrived where we are, over the course of a hundred years. One idea, one materials habit, building one new fiber cup factory at a time. We are all in agreement that things need to change, we are all certainly in agreement that we don't have a hundred years to get this done. I know that can do it.
I also feel that the real challenge, is not technological hurdles. The real challenge is us. We have achieved so much in the last century, I hope that collectively we can use that ingenuity, to improve a few critical things as we move forward.