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MyCup™ - Compostable Coffee Cup Grown of Mushroom Mycelium and Spent Coffee Grounds!

Closed loop system for guilt-free coffee on the go!

Photo of Karen Rossin
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Idea Title

MyCup™ - Closed loop system for guilt-free coffee

Idea Summary

Inspired by nature, our contribution closes the loop around coffee by combining mushroom mycelium and spent coffee grounds (SPGs) to produce the perfect Nextgen to-go cup for hot or cold beverages.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Biomimicry Design, LLC

Website (if applicable)

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

How to close the loop of the coffee/cup ecosystem?

MyCUP™ was conceived by using the biomimicry innovation process which takes a life-cycle approach to develop a product fit for purpose. Nature by design sips energy, uses local and abundant materials that are compostable and goes on feeding others…the results a food-grade, guilt-free to-go cup. 

MyCUP™ has the potential to be grown locally from the exact biomass waste of the beverage itself. The basic process is to grow a network of chitin filaments into the desired cup shape using a blend of substrate built on the backbones of spent coffee grounds (SPGs). The result forms a strong composite material much like cork that is light, strong, and water resistant.  

This novel, food grade material will naturally decompose in 30-90 days after use. SPGs are not ʻspentʼ but retain valuable nutrients, antioxidants, are high in carbon and lignin and are an ideal feed-stock for the growth of certain types of mushroom mycelium. SPGs also have a beautiful particle size that are unlike other feedstocks.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup
  • Other

How is your concept recoverable?

MyCUP™ is a closed loop story that diverts SPGʼs from landfills to utilize this valuable feedstock and mushroom mycelium to grow food grade, non-toxic, single-use, 100% compostable (rapidly decompose in both aerobic and anaerobic environments) products. The envisioned supply chain concentrates on a minimal environmental footprint from feedstock collection to cup manufacturing to distribution and then back to healthy soil that is conducive for growing other valuable feedstocks. Our single-use hot/cold beverage cups grown to form are used to contain liquid for days and when disposed rapidly decompose.

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

The sustainability attributes of MyCUP™ are: • Global issue - Earth-friendly • Cradle to Cradle - Close loop • Renewable Resources - Utilize waste streams • Better biodegradable/compostable solutions MyCUP™ brings people together to enjoy a guilt-free to-go cup of coffee, teaching them about the full life-cycle of their product by including them in the composting fate of their cup. The to-go cup will provide a profitable solution. While the planet rejoices – a cup is elegantly grown!

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

We are targeting a coffee-loving hub in North America with an existing high use of disposable cups. The hub would be located close to both raw materials and point of delivery. Some initial thoughts for the hub would be Portland, New York or Seattle. Our vision is to grow organically using our proven product ecosystem. We will focus on creating an efficient network that produces an economically viable solution for the cup while meeting our sustainability criteria.

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

Everyone benefits from MyCup™. • Coffee Retailer – a solution for SPGs/cup waste and a perfect, waste-free cup • Cup Producer – low-energy production process, low operating costs and abundant raw material • Coffee Drinker – positive relationship with their cup of coffee without changing current behavior • Mother Nature – less waste, more nutrients As part of our design consideration, the adoption of MyCup™ will be supported by the creation of a social epidemic around the use of a novel biomaterial(s) that meshes well with contemporary coffee drinker’s culture. Like nature, our product ecosystem will be adapted to grow locally, fitting into diverse coffee-loving cultures.

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?

1. "Scaling-up" from the production of a laboratory prototype to a full commercial production process delivering on all design criteria for the cup including aesthetics. 2. Achieving a profitable solution using full life cycle costing. 3. Overcoming potential user bias/fear with using mushroom mycelium.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Business Model Development
  • Waste and Infrastructure
  • Fundraising / Finance

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

Our 6 member team has experts from the following areas: Biomimicry (a PhD and 5 certified Biomimicry Specialists), Chemical and environmental engineering, Design (Industrial, Packaging, Interior), and a mycelium expert.

In what city are you located?

Pennsylvania, PA

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.

Using the opportunity to build a relationship with well-established companies that form the coffee ecosystem from the cup users, the coffee houses/serving venues, and also the generators of the SPGs (one of the raw materials of MyCup™). This will enable building the required network to create a novel closed loop coffee biome. Becoming a Top Idea will also help us acquire a strong business mentor/partnership to move from the lab to full commercial production.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

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


Join the conversation:

Photo of rafeed hossain

I found the problems highlighted interesting so my question is how are you looking to overcome the potential user bias/fear with using mushroom mycelium? Are you planning to inform the public?

Photo of Karen Rossin

Thank you for your inquiry Rafeed.

Yes, we feel it is important to educate the user that MyCUP™ is a biologically sourced, earth-friendly material grown using a mycelium network and spent coffee grounds. Our team understands that some coffee-drinkers, when introduced to MyCUP™’s unique ingredients, may have misgivings and health concerns about drinking from a fungal mycelium mushroom cup. One key to changing user bias/fear is education. Here are a few of our considerations:

Customer Health: 
MyCUP™ is good for your health! It is grown using only FDA approved natural ingredients (edible mushroom mycelium and /spent coffee grounds). Additionally, most hot/cold fiber cups have PET or PLA based-coatings which may be harmful for human consumption. PET coatings contain microplastics which bio-accumulate in human/animal/plant tissues.

Customer Interaction:
First-hand experience is important by allowing customers to test the cup: pick up, feel the smooth outer surface, light-weight, imparts no odor or taste. Customers can enjoy a guilt-free Cup-of-Joe because when they are done they can either toss or compost the empty cup.

Customer Perceptions:
Today there are several companies manufacturing mycelium-based products e.g. building materials and vegan leather. Over the last few years, positive articles and market responses to mycelium-based materials indicate that a growing number of consumers understand the benefits of this novel material!

Earth Friendly - Sustainability
MyCUP™ recycles spent coffee grounds, an abundant and reliable waste stream! Our factory uses “yesterday’s spent grounds to grow today’s cup".
• Low-energy, Low water growing process.
• Biodegradable and compostable bio-material
• Edible mushrooms varieties are FDA approved!
• Three “P’s” – People, Planet, Profit

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Karen Rossin ,

A friendly reminder that the deadline to edit your submissions is in a few hours at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time! Please click "publish" on your idea to have it included as a submission.

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Karen Rossin ,

Great to see you filling out your submission. I did want to make sure you knew your submission is currently in draft form. Was this your intention? With the deadline for a complete submission by this Friday, we recommend making your ideas public as soon as possible so our community can provide feedback. You can continue editing your submission until the final deadline!

Please click "publish" on your idea at the top of the page. Feel free to tag me with any questions you may have.