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Multi-use cups have a very clear ecological advantage over single use cups.

Photo of Holger Hampf
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Idea Title


Idea Summary

The system consists of a newly designed cup for multiple-use in combination with a deposit system. The cup can be cleaned in stores or at home for repeated usage and/or returned at a deposit machine.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)


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

The system consists of a newly designed cup for multiple use and a deposit system. The cup can be cleaned in stores or at your home and returned at multiple locations (McDonald and Starbucks stores) after use. The material of the cup allows recycling after return.

When buying the cup (usually with a drink) a deposit is charged. The return can be done in the store or at deposit machine (similar to the German plastic bottle deposit system). This system can, but does not have to be supported by legal regulations (i.e. stores which offer the cup have to feature a collection system). The cup features an incision, in which a sturdy drinking straw is attached; the straw can also be used for stirring. A lid can be pressed either onto the top opening or the base depending on use. For hot drinks, the cup features a small foldable handle, which can fold flush to the cup for stacking. A refund is paid upon return of the complete cup (with lid and straw).

We suggest the use of a mono material that is suitable for cold and hot drinks, and which meets the requirements of food law (for example polypropylene). The cup is firm, and not too light and can withstand a dishwashers’ cleaning cycle/water temperature.

Multi-use cups have a very clear ecological advantage over single use, disposable cups made of biological and degradable material. A deposit system (similar deposit technology for plastic bottles is already available) promises a high return rate based on refunding. A consumer adaptation and learning curve is to be expected - we suggest a preliminary project to investigate options for the deposit system and the level of payback).

It is conceivable to allow varying refunds based on different cups (color coding), brand logos or QR codes can be imprinted.

This solution addresses which of the following:

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

How is your concept recoverable?

Multi-use cups have a very clear ecological advantage over single use cups. The cup including handle, lid and straw are all manufactured from the same material (for example polypropylene) and can be easily recycled (accepted by existing recycling systems globally). Cup and handle are a single piece, straw and lid are "click-attached". Only the return of the entire WeCup returns the deposit to the user. The deposit system accepts the cup and "crushes" the cup for space efficiency (similar to plastic bottle recycling, see video) inside the machine and at location. Starbucks, McDonalds and other public places (malls, supermarkets,...) feature the deposit machines. Again, the user can use the cup multiple times, either bring it along for another drink purchase or even return to receive a discount on the next drink. Closed-loop recycling vs generating single-use trash.

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

The environmental requirements for the cup or a corresponding system are already very high, and therefore should not be increased by additional sustainability requirements. Nevertheless, various additions are conceivable: charitable organizations could set up collection containers without payback option but with financial support of the companies offering the cup.

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

The cup and the system can be basically planned for global use. In many countries around the world there are no organized collection and disposal systems, but for deposit systems there is always a functioning market. Due to different colors of the cups, different refunds can be realized and adapted to the economical context of each country/region.

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

The global consumer. First and foremost, it protects the environment and human health. In view of the problem of single-use products and plastic pollution that is more than sufficient.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Operating Concept / Startup

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

Changing consumer habits from one-way systems to a multi-use system is probably the biggest challenge. With an appropriate deposit/refund, consumers can be encouraged to return and the challenge can be mastered.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Fundraising / Finance

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

Holger Hampf is an Industrial Designer, currently responsible for Designworks. Rainer Griesshammer is Professor of Sustainable Products at the University of Freiburg. He was the managing director of the renowned Oeko-Institut in Freiburg.

In what city are you located?

Freiburg / Los Angeles

In what country are you located?

Germany / USA

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


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

It is not always necessary to reinvent the wheel. We would want to leverage system ideas such as the German plastic bottle deposit systems and convert such a machine to accept the WeCup. For this, we need partnerships and a prototype machine that would accept the new cup. I believe we can already consumer test the acceptance of a deposit system (at a Starbucks/McDonalds location) without a final cup design. Like we said before, the biggest challenge is consumer adaptation and learning curve.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • In the news


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anthony Zammit

I don't mean to sound negative with questions, a good idea just the same

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