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Resolved by Pine Resin

Boost the recyclability of paper cups by substituting polyethylene with Pine Resin.

Photo of Samuel Darko
1 1

Written by

Idea Title

Idea Summary

Currently, many of the paper cups which are used in coffee shops are not recyclable due to the lining of polyethylene, which is necessary for preventing leaks. My idea is to replace it with pine sap.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Virginia Commonwealth University

Pine resin is a natural substance that can be refined refined into a glue-like compound, by melting the sap first, and then adding charcoal and beeswax (for more flexibility) into the mixture. After it cools, it hardens into a solid figure. My idea is to replace the polyethylene in the paper cups with the pine resin. Thus, the paper cup would be coated with the pine resin glue, instead of the polyethylene lining.

This solution addresses which of the following:

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

How is your concept recoverable?

The pine resin glue solution because every component of the mixture is natural and biodegradable. Being that the components consists of pine resin, charcoal, and beeswax. After the cup has been used, it can be fully recyclable by decomposition.

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

Solutions uses ethically sourced materials which are natural and would not infringe on FSC regulations.

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

Since most pine trees are grown in the Northern regions, this solution would be initially tested on restaurants and cafe's located within the Northern regions in order to cut down additional cost of transporting the solution.

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

I believe that cafes and fast food restaurants that uses large amounts of paper cups to serve drinks would benefit the most. Especially, the cafe giant Starbucks, which alone is responsible for 6 billion non-recyclable paper cup waste yearly.

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?

The biggest challenges would be garnering customer trust to endorse the change, as part of their experience when using this product. Although, the solution may work, is customers are not willing to adopt it, then many of the businesses which seeks to use the pine resin cups would discontinue the use of the product to maintain their bottom line.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Business Model Development
  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainability and Recoverability
  • Waste and Infrastructure
  • Product / Industrial Design and Prototyping
  • Branding / Marketing and Storytelling
  • Growth and Scaling
  • Legal
  • Fundraising / Finance

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

Right now, I am an individual student from Virginia Commonwealth University. Should my idea advance forward, then my team would expand with other VCU students with unique skills and knowledge concerning different aspect of this solution.

In what city are you located?

Richmond, Virginia

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.

Becoming a top idea would definitely push resources into identifying the best way for increasing the recyclability of paper cups through the use of pine resin. Joining the post-challenge business accelerator would definitely grant more time for testing out this idea and discovering its viability levels. The funding provided for me idea would be used for the building a minimal viable product of my solution in order to test its desirability, viability and scalability.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • OpenIDEO announcement email
  • Direct email invitation
  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Koldun Victor

An ordinary cardboard cup breaks down in the natural environment roughly in a year or thereabout. Approximately how the fallen leaves does, consisting of the same cellulose. In order for the new material for the production of cups to become a cost effective replacement of cardboard, it should decompose order faster, somewhere in a month, maybe two or three. This is at an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius (according to NASA). But when we pour water near a boiling point, at a temperature of 95 degrees, into such cup , according to the rule of Svante August Arrhenius, all the chemical processes in it, including the self-decay of complex molecules, respectively, accelerate. The minimum acceleration will be somewhere 250 times, and the maximum will be about 65,000 times. That is, for a disposable cup that has been filled for at least an hour, and this is a real situation somewhere on a picnic, there is all the chances to pour out their content on the table at best , at worst, on himself or his electronic devices. Even if this cup was made a few days before that and was stored in a stock in perfect conditions.
Therefore, the question arises - how do you deal with such issue?