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PyroCup leverages cradle-to-cradle design to provide carton cups that use a pyrolysis recycling process to recycle all elements used.

Photo of Sophie Papworth
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Idea Title

Idea Summary

PyroCup leverages cradle-to-cradle design to provide hot/cold carton cups that use a pyrolysis recycling process to recycle all elements used - resulting in the separation of raw, valuable materials.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

University of Technology Sydney

Website (if applicable)


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

Given the convenience of single-use cups, PyroCup aims to reinvent what we now know as the takeaway cup. PyroCup has steered away from the conventional cup and uses a laminated cup design comprised of paperboard, plastic and aluminium - much like laminated cartons manufactured by the Swedish company, Tetra Pak. The design of these cups will allow for a cradle-to-cradle approach whereby the cups can be recycled using a process called Pyrolysis; hence the concept name 'Pyro' + Cup.

As seen in the diagrams provided, Pyrolysis largely is a recycling process that uses polylaminate mixtures separated from the cup paper fibres to evaporate plastic, leaving raw, recycled aluminium which is more valuable than aluminium oxide. This is done by heating the mixture to 400° in an oxygen-free chamber, to which the un-oxidised aluminium can then be used in the manufacturing process to produce new cups. As raw aluminium can be recycled multiple times and in doing so actually takes up 95% less energy, Pyrolysis makes the recycling of the PyroCup not only valuable and worthwhile but aids in using renewable, green energy in an effort to make this process as carbon neutral as possible.

The PyroCup itself, as seen in the diagram above, is created largely through compounding fibres derived from harvested logs and uses molten polythene to prevent leaking. Given a portion of the fibres are bleached white, businesses like Starbucks and McDonalds will still be able to print their branding on the PyroCup to ensure brand awareness.

In order to distribute on a global scale, PyroCup can partner with organisations who are already trailing this technology. These organisations include Alucha, an innovative recycling company based in Barcelona; and Enval, an English organisation that focus on microwave pyrolysis.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup
  • Reusable System
  • Alternative Delivery System

How is your concept recoverable?

PyroCup is a recoverable concept as it doesn’t rely on consumers changing their behaviour to make a difference. Rather, we focus on re-engineering how the to-go cup is manufactured to increase the value for recycling companies to recycle these cups. Pyrolysis allows this to happen through the breaking down of key elements within the cup’s structure, reducing energy consumption in the process, and ensuring the output of this recycling process can be used to create more new cups through implementing a cradle-to-cradle like design.

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

PyroCup has the potential to be Cradle to Cradle Certified, which Trucost have attested can result in three main organisational benefits: Business: Increase in sales performance, growth, and profits due to the recyclable nature of the product. Environmental: Conserving resources and renewable energy helps businesses reduce their carbon emissions. Social: Increased corporate social responsibility and the promotion of sustainable products to consumers/suppliers.

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

Given that the head office of Starbucks and McDonalds is within the US, along with the 250 billion cups produced by the country each year, starting in the US would be the primary starting point. Given the challenge proposed by NextGen Cup emphasises the need for this environmental solution in the US, targeting such a vast area will allow the product in the future to scale up and expand their market to other countries.

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

PyroCup’s target market is focused on manufacturing companies and business owners, as PyroCup requires a shift in manufacturing and recycling; involving stakeholders from the beginning of the product lifecycle (creation/distribution), and the end (recycling). These organisations would have to undertake logistical changes in the implementation of the PyroCup from the conventional cups they use today. Once they’ve sold the remainder of their current stock, as to not create more unnecessary waste, these businesses can restock their stores with PyroCups. The end of the product lifecycle relies on consumers recycling their cups, thus requiring no drastic change in behaviour.

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?

Given this concept was created by a one-man team, resourcing is the primary gap in moving forward with PyroCup. Additional R&D and scaling support would be beneficial to further a digital and physical prototype to test and commence product/market validation.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Product / Industrial Design and Prototyping
  • Legal
  • Fundraising / Finance

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

I’m a student at the University of Technology Sydney studying a Bachelor of IT. Outside of my studies I’ve had three years experience in the Consulting industry across a variety of sectors including maternal health, financial services and innovation.

In what city are you located?


In what country are you located?


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

Sole Student

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

Becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of PyroCup through collaborating with other creative minds of OpenIDEO through their design process. This will help further the concept from the infancy it is in today in the hope to make a difference to the environment given the scale of the issue at hand. Working with those associated with the platform will aid in the acceleration of a Business Model, Customer Journey and Product Validation given the large market that this concept would effect.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Other

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Join the conversation:

Photo of James Francis

Hi Sophie Papworth - love your submission!

I work within the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Unit at UTS and would love to help you refine your idea or connect you to some relevant subject matter experts. I am also a co-organiser of the OpenIDEO Sydney Chapter whom are hosting a NextGen Cup Challenge Design Sprint at UTS Startups this Saturday 3 November from 10am-5pm if you are interested and available.

Here's the link to RSVP via Eventbrite: