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ButterflyCup - eliminates plastic lids & straws, is easy to use and is 100% recyclable & compostable. ButterflyCup - this changes everything

The all-in-one paper drinks cup that eliminates plastic lids & straws, is 100% recoverable and provides significant environmental benefits

Photo of Tommy McLoughlin
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Idea Title

ButterflyCup - eliminates plastic lids and straws

Idea Summary

All-in-one disposable cup (no lid or straw required) that is easy to use, prevents splashes, leaks and drips, reduces storage / transport volumes, is 100% recyclable and reduces environmental impact

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Hanpak Limited (trading as ButterflyCup)

Website (if applicable)

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup
  • Cup Lids
  • Straws
  • All of the Above
  • Reusable System

How is your concept recoverable?

ButterflyCup is made entirely from paperboard - with no separate lid or straw required. The optimal material for ButterflyCup is a barrier-free, composite-free paperboard (such as ISLA paperboard produced by Kotkamills, Finland). ButterflyCup formed using ISLA paperboard: • is 100% recyclable and repulpable in mainstream recycling with normal paper waste and without the need for segregation and a specialist recycling process - certified by PTS, Germany. • is 100% compostable – certified by OWS, Belgium. • will biodegrade naturally in a marine or terrestrial environment much more quickly than laminated paperboard if disposed of improperly. The next best recoverable option is using paperboard coated with BioPBS, which is certified as 100% compostable and recyclable, subject to segregation. The weakest option is PE-coated paperboard which is recyclable, subject to segregation. In all cases, ButterflyCup has the environmental benefit of eliminating plastic lids & straws

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

By eliminating plastic lids & straws ButterflyCup reduces the carbon footprint of ’to go’ drinks (and in due course food) by (1) reducing plastics manufacturing, (2) reducing the packaging volumes that require storage and transport and (3) reducing volumes for end-of-life disposal. Paperboard, which is the only constituent of ButterflyCup, comes from certified ethical and renewable sources. The ButterflyCup design can be adapted as a re-usable container for either drinks or food products.

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

ButterflyCup’s business model is to licence to reputable cup manufacturers worldwide. This model facilitates rapid global roll-out and local production that reduces transport distances and carbon footprint. To date ButterflyCup has 3 cup manufacturing licensees with others in the pipeline. ButterflyCup has applications beyond single-use drinks cups – it can be adapted to serve viscous products (soup, noodles, porridge), solid foods (fries, popcorn, etc) and also for re-usable containers.

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

The target market for Butterflyup is the worldwide single-use drinks cup market. Follow-on targets (with modified versions of BFCup) are single-use viscous and solid foods packaging and a re-usable cup. ButterflyCup has multiple benefits (as listed above). It is designed to be easy to use – two clicks and it is closed, ready to use, easy to drink from and secure to handle. User feedback is strongly positive centring on eliminating lids that (1) cause spills, splashes, drips and (2) damage the environment. Negatives centre on people’s natural resistance to change and relating to a different shape and closing method. Repeat sales prove that initial intuitive caution is temporary.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Operating Concept / Startup
  • Corporate Submission

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

The key challenges are: (1) building market awareness with both vendors and consumers (2) building the confidence of vendors in the supply chain. A frequent concern is assurance that the supply chain is sufficiently robust and vendors can be confident of both continuity of supply and consistency of product if they make the significant switch from regular to ButterflyCups (3) lack of a full range of cup sizes - to date our largest available size is 16oz (4) building production scale – early stage manufacturers are investing and expanding at a relatively cautious pace until they have confidence that demand is sustaining and justifies ramping up production capacity and investment (5) the large Tier 1 international cup manufacturers, who also produce plastic lids, are reluctant to promote a new concept that significantly disrupts and undermines their existing profitable business model

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Supply Chain
  • Branding / Marketing and Storytelling
  • Growth and Scaling

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

Tommy McLoughlin, CEO, is a CPA with 30 years’ experience in senior management and start-ups Joe Lu, inventor of ButterflyCup, is a mechanical engineer Brian Ranalow, Chairman, was CEO of H&K International and is now its non-executive Chairman

In what city are you located?


In what country are you located?


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

Limited liability company

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

Top Idea will give ButterflyCup huge product validation with manufacturers / vendors and access to key decision-makers. It will drive awareness with consumers. Funding received will be invested in (1) PR and marketing to build market awareness, (2) accelerating the pace of product development / launch of (1) the recently patented improved cup design (2) the viscous food cup (3) a re-usable version Success for ButterflyCup is becoming market leader replacing the existing cup, lid and straw

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • In the news
  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)


Tommy McLoughlin (CEO) is a Chartered Accountant who trained with EY and has 30 years’ experience both at senior corporate management level and as owner/CEO in a previous successful manufacturing business start-up Joe Lu (Technical Director and inventor of ButterflyCup) is a mechanical engineer. Originally from China, Joe has lived in Ireland for over 25 years. Brian Ranalow (Chairman) is Chairman and retired CEO of H&K International, a leading kitchen solutions provider to QSRs worldwide.

Material / Recoverability Plan

ButterflyCup is a single item replacement for the regular disposable cup, lid and straw combination. This represents the first step in simplifying the waste disposal and recovery process by eliminating plastic lids and straws. ButterflyCup is made entirely from paperboard. The optimal material for ButterflyCup is a barrier-free, composite-free paperboard (such as ISLA paperboard, recently developed and produced by Kotkamills, Finland). Other composite-free options may emerge in due course. Using ISLA paperboard will allow ButterflyCup to be 100% recyclable and repulpable in mainstream paper recycling, along with cardboard and other paper, without the need to segregate or specially treat the cups (as certified by PTS, Germany). Cups will also be 100% compostable (as certified by OWS, Belgium). A further advantage of using ISLA paperboard is that if cups are improperly disposed of, in either a marine or terrestrial environment, they will biodegrade naturally in months - rather than years or centuries, as is the case with existing coated paperboards. ButterflyCup plans to convert to using ISLA paperboard in the coming months. There are no apparent reasons why ISLA paperboard and ButterflyCup are not technically compatible. Trials are currently under way to confirm full functional compatibility before commercial launch. To date ButterflyCup has used BioPBS-coated paperboard as a plastic-free, compostable and recyclable alternative to plastic-coated paperboard in the manufacture of its cups. This is a significant step forward compared to plastic-coated paperboard however a continuing downside is that cups formed using paperboard laminated with any coating is that it must be segregated and subject to specialist treatment in order to be recycled or composted.


Hanpak ensures that the paperboard used in ButterflyCup is ethically and sustainably sourced by making it a licensing condition for its cup manufacturer licensees. ButterflyCup can be produced locally throughout the world because of its licensing model. This helps optimise the transport distances and environmental impact of transporting both raw materials and end product to their required locations. Also, because the ButterflyCup itself is 100% plastic-free and eliminates the need for separate plastic lids and straws it reduces dependence upon the sourcing and production of plastic as well as the negative consequences of disposing of plastic material, whether through recycling channels, landfill or its improper disposal as environmental litter. ButterflyCup is currently manufactured using paperboard coated with BioPBS which is manufactured by PTTMCC from corn starch. It is planned to transition ButterflyCup production to using ISLA paperboard, the laminate-free paperboard recently developed by Kotkamills, Finland. The attached brochure confirms that ISLA paperboard is produced from ethical and renewable sources and is recyclable with mainstream paper waste, without the need for any specialist treatment.

Final Prototype

Hanpak operates a philosophy of continuous improvement and a further significant design improvement shall be introduced in the coming months. The two features of this improvement are: (1) the internal lid which currently protrudes above the cup rim when the cup is open will become fully recessed (2) the internal lid is spring-loaded when in the closed position and by pressing outwardly against the inner wall of the cup increases its structural strength, performance and cost competitiveness


ButterflyCup is already in commercial production and available in over 10 countries. Consumer reaction is very positive and the performance of the cup is endorsed by repeat sales. ButterflyCup provides a positive drinking experience and eliminates the splashes, leaks and drips that consumers frequently experience when drinking coffee from a regular disposable cup and lid. It also overcomes the anxiety many consumers feel when fitting plastic lids and the risk of the lid falling off and causing spillage. During its development phase Hanpak commissioned Independent market research and focus group evaluation (specifically for hot drinks usage) that confirmed the positive feelings towards ButterflyCup and the negative feelings associated with the existing cup and lid offering. Because the only material used in ButterflyCup is paperboard there are no health or safety issues specific to ButterflyCup.

Ecosystem Placement

ButterflyCups initial target market is the global disposable beverage cup sector. It works for both hot and cold drinks – across the spectrum of uses from coffee to soft drinks to beer. ButterflyCup is a versatile disposable cup option that performs better than the alternative disposable solutions across all mainstream waste disposal and recovery infrastructures globally including recycling, composting, incineration, and improper disposal as litter. Using ISLA paperboard ButterflyCup will biodegrade naturally at the same rate as paper and avoids the highly negative impact of laminated paperboard and plastics on wildlife and the environment when improperly disposed of as litter. While its initial target market is the disposable drinks cup sector ButterflyCup has wider applications, including as: • a container for serving viscous foods such as soup & noodles • a container for solid food pieces such as fries, chicken pieces & popcorn • a reusable beverage cup

Rollout Plan

ButterflyCup’s business model is to licence to reputable cup manufacturers globally. Licensing facilitates rapid roll-out, both geographically and to cover the full product range required in terms of cup sizes, styles and designs (single wall, double wall, smooth, ripple, diamond, etc). To date, ButterflyCup has granted licences to three manufacturers. The first two (in China and Indonesia) are in early-stage commercial production and are building production capacity. The third manufacturer (in South Korea) commences production in March 2019. A number of other manufacturing licences are currently under negotiation. The ButterflyCup distribution network is growing rapidly, with product currently available in more than ten countries. Sales are growing strongly both to new and repeat customers. ButterflyCup is being actively evaluated (including plans for both in-store and in-house trials) by a number of the largest global beverage / foodservice operators. ButterflyCup is currently available in sizes from 8oz to 16oz. This is a short-term limiting factor in some markets and sectors. Larger cup sizes shall be added to the available range in the coming months, with the objective that all commercial sizes up to 32oz shall become available during 2019. To date, ButterflyCup is formed using medium speed (linear) cup forming machines. A next step to driving high volume production is to modify the design of existing high speed (rotary) cup forming machines by the addition of the functionality to insert ButterflyCup’s ‘internal lid’. From a technical perspective this is a relatively straightforward adjustment. Existing machines also require minor modification and retro-fitting for the recent cup design improvement. Overall, ButterflyCup is well positioned to rapidly increase its production capacity during 2019.

Business Model Canvas

The attached business model canvas aims to summarise both Hanpak's business model and progress on the ButterflyCup project to date. For the benefit of reviewers, we have tried to strike a balance between a concise overview and a comprehensive level of detail that may result in information overload. We are willing to provide whatever additional information or explanation is required to facilitate greater clarity and understanding or to address any deficiencies or gaps in the information provided.

Prize Funding

A key business objective is increasing consumer and market awareness of the availability and environmental benefits of ButterflyCup. A media campaign is launching in February 2019 targeting both traditional media (print, radio and TV) and social media platforms. Our website is currently being upgraded, with plans to add multi-language functionality. All prize funding received will be invested in accelerating the international roll-out, scale and intensity of this consumer awareness campaign.

NextGen Accelerator

  • Yes, I am interested in participating in the NextGen Cup Accelerator

Optional Team Video

Joe Lu invented ButterflyCup at his kitchen table. Joe was motivated by the desire to eliminate the need for plastic lids & straws and to improve the consumer drinking experience. Joe was joined by Tommy McLoughlin to help commercialise the project. They have worked together full-time since 2012 in developing improved iterations of the cup and the modified cup forming process required to take ButterflyCup from a handmade prototype to a commercial product selling in over ten countries.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Pang DX

Thank you for creating this holistic concept which eliminates plastic lids and straws, and build market awareness with both vendors and consumers.
Hopefully, supply chain members will recognize the benefits and incorporate the concept in their operations.

Photo of Tommy McLoughlin

Dear Pang DX,
Thank you for your kind and supportive comments.
Kind regards,

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