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Traditional materials used differently solves recovery issues

A cup system to fully recover all components of single use beverage cups for recycling or composting.

Photo of Virginia P'an
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Idea Title

A bottomless fiber cup for hot and cold beverages

Idea Summary

A system using bottomless cup shells made from uncoated recycled paper with an attached separate liner that is easily removable by the user. The two parts can either be recycled or composted.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Yumi EcoSolutions, Inc.

Website (if applicable)

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

Disposable Cups (shells) with one or more holes in the bottom so air will escape when liquid is poured in the liner and will fill to the cup’s capacity. Shells are made from uncoated recycled paper and printed with renewable compostable ink.  Food only contacts the virgin liner so there is no issue with the type of recycled paper used.  Liners can be made from LDPE or compostable film.  Cup shells with liners will be made in factories and delivered to stores ready to use. Liners are attached with a “stick and peel” adhesive.  A visible tab on the liner lets the user “zip it off” after the contents are emptied, separate the two parts and put each in its designated reuse receptacle. Outer dimensions of shells will closely match a company’s current cups to use standard sized sleeves and lids which can be plastic or made from a compostable material depending on available infrastructure. A parallel process to manually insert and attach removable liners into shells should enable store owners to use the system in markets that cannot be supported by a supply chain from a  factory that produces shells with liners. The same method could be used with reusable shells to save costs and further reduce recyclable shell volume in stores where customers eat in. 

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup

How is your concept recoverable?

The inability to separate the components of a multi-layered cup substrate is solved by having a completely detachable liner. Once separated, cup and liner can both be recovered by recycling or composting. Ink used to print cups is also compostable but not recoverable

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

Where commercial composting infrastructure is available, the disposable liner can be made with a sustainable/compostable material. Inks used to print cup shells are specified to be made from sustainable and renewable sources

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

The system contemplated by this proposal can be implemented in any market by any store that is in an established supply chain of prepackaged disposable cups. It is adaptable to either recycling or composting depending on available infrastructure.

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

Everyone benefits when the quantity of solid waste in landfills caused by single use serve-ware is reduced and components of those single use items can be recycled or composted. With this system customers will experience no difference in the way they buy and use beverages from their current experience; only the to-go container is slightly different. Consumers are asked to be active participants in the end of use/reuse process–instead of throwing everything in the trash-to peel liners from cup shells and put each in its designated receptacle. Customers could be given incentives to participate. Eventually the process will be second nature and become as acceptable as packets of catsup.

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?

We will need to meet with cup manufacturers to discuss making machinery to produce shells and attach removable liners. We need to work with adhesive companies on a compostable stick and peel adhesive. We need to conduct research on customer attitudes on removing liners and use that information to refine the process of peeling off the liner and also use that information develop advertising to introduce and educate the customer. We need to get these new shells/liners into the supply chain to support all stores in a particular region of implementation.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

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

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

Albert, leading this project is a co-founder of the company, and Chief Operating Officer. He has engineering degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of California and a business degree from the Harvard Business School.

In what city are you located?

Westport, Connecticut

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.

o Conduct focus groups to identify customer concerns o Review and adjust o Develop system specifications o Send RFPs to machinery companies to develop a machine to make cup shells and insert removable liners o Select manufacturer(s) to make a prototype and produce test samples o Test samples in Consortium Partners’ laboratories and control stores o Review and adjust o Develop advertising campaign to introduce and educate customers o Test in real stores o Review & adjust o Roll out

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Closed Loop Partners website / social media

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Virginia P'an ,

A friendly reminder the deadline to edit your submission is toady, November 16 @ 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Please ensure all desired information, photos, videos, etc. is included in your submission by that deadline. Email nextgencup@ideo.comwith any questions.