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Cup&Co is a concept that aims at frequent coffee drinkers and provides them with a system to use their own reusable cups more often.

Photo of Thomas Gossner
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Idea Title

Idea Summary

Combining a functional cup with wireless payment technologies known from credit cards, Cup&Co aims at frequent coffee drinkers and provides them with a system to use their own reusable cups more often

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


Worldwide 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day. With a consumption of 400 million cups a day the U.S. is one of the countries with the highest coffee consumption in the world. A large part of these cups is drunken on the go in disposable cups. In New York City, where people drink the most coffee compared to any other major city in the US, the problem is obvious. The trash bins are full of disposable cups that can not be recycled. 

In total 50 billion cups end up in U.S. landfills every year. The resulting damage is tremendous. Approximately it leads to wasting 20 million trees, 12 billion gallons of water and energy to power 53,000 homes for a whole year.



Why do people use disposable cups? 

Based on interviews and shadowings during a summer course in Manhattan, we developed a stakeholder map which uncovered different stakeholders with most different backgrounds and motivations. 

Most of the coffee consumers in Manhattan order a coffee to go, as they do not want to be bound to a place where they have to finish the coffee. They get a coffee in a disposable cup even when sitting down in Joe’s coffee shop, as they might want to get going before the coffee is finished. A lot of the coffee consumers also combine activities such as their daily commute with drinking coffee. Apart from the insight that people want to enjoy their coffee wherever and whenever they want, a lack of knowledge was revealed. 8 out of 10 people thought coffee cups where fully recyclable as they are made of cardboard. 

The habit of drinking coffee to go is a huge benefit for coffee shop owners. They can sell 300-400 cups of coffee a day, even when their coffee shop only has 5-10 seats. As their guests are paying for the coffee and not for the cup, they aim for the cheapest available solution there is, which are disposable cups. Coffee shop owners want to enable every customer to have a coffee to go in the most cost efficient and convenient way.


The system

The concept Cup&Co takes these insights into account and aims at sustainably reducing the amount of trash produced by disposable cups. Cup&Co concentrates on frequent coffee drinkers and provides them with a system to use their own reusable cups more often.To do so, Cup&Co is based on a flatrate system. The user selects a package that includes a monthly coffee allowance and pays directly to Cup&Co. Choosing a coffee plan the user receives a special cup in return. The cup contains a chip for wireless payment in its ground plate and includes a modular system for an increased functionality. When the user wants to have a coffee he needs to take the cup with him, as all data relating his coffee plan is stored on the RFID chip. For receiving the coffee he places the cup on the wireless payment machines known from credit cards. 

He will then get his coffee while Cup&Co pays the coffee shop. Through the number of customers using Cup&Co and the guarantee of them bringing their own cups, Cup&Co can negotiate a lower price per cup. Through this system the user can save money while reducing the amount of trash he produces. Using existing payment technologies, Cup&Co can be used independently in any coffee shop of the world and is therefore easily scalable. 


The cup

The Cup&Co cup combines a comfortable drinking experience with a modular system that adds more functionality in three different situations: drinking-on-the-go, enjoying, take-away. It is made of aluminium and plastic. The outer cylindrical form and its milled rings function as grip structure and connection element between the cup and the modular system.A simple cylindrical form is chosen to combine a maximum of inner volume of 300ml with a minimum in height, so that the cup fits underneath every coffee machine. 

In the inside of this form sits a plastic cup. This creates a two-walled system, which has an isolating effect on hot or cold beverages. The plastic form is slightly conical to assure an ergonomic drinking experience. Plastic and aluminium parts are connected by a screwing mechanism and can be separated for an easy cleaning process. The RFID chip is included in the cup’s ground plate.


Based on the research of where, when and why people are drinking coffee to go in New York City, three different situations were identified: enjoying-coffee, drinking-coffee-on-the-go and taking-coffee-away. 

When people want to enjoy a coffee they sit down, open the lid of the cup and drink the whole coffee where they sit. The Cup&Co cup supports this situation with the possibility to open the lid completely and store it in the ground plate, so that it doesn’t get lost.

For drinking coffee on the go, the lid is the most important element. As in this situation people drink their coffee during walking, taking the public transportation or driving a car, the lid has to prevent spilling. Additionally the users need to be able to open and close the cup fast and easily. Therefore, the lid system of the Cup&Co cup is inspired by portable coffeepots. The screwing lid can be either closed tightly or opened a little, by turning the lid just a little.

Some people also want to take the coffee to a certain place to enjoy it there or wait for a suitable moment to drink. In this case the cup can be closed tightly. 

The modular system provides the user with additional handles or fastening possibilities aiming at the situations of taking-away and drinking-on-the-go.

This solution addresses which of the following:

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

How is your concept recoverable?

The system Cup&Co reduces the usage of disposable cups by a reusable cup brought by the customers.

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

Cup&Co focuses on big urban areas such as New York City or San Francisco as the problem there is the biggest. To introduce Cup&Co, the system is rolled out in major companies around the US to offer their employees a membership at Cup&Co. Similar to the car leasing programs, the flat rate is paid by the company as a bonus for the employee. The aim of Cup&Co is to offer the service globally, based on the widespread wireless payment technologies.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing
  • Prototyping

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

- cleaning the cups - product development cup - partner to support/introduce system for test issues

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Business Model Development
  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Engineering and Manufacturing

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

We are the "Cool Beans", an international team of students and professionals from the US, the Philippines, China, Portugal and Germany. Our competencies include Industrial Design, Visual Communication, Brand Design, Marketing, Finance and Business.

In what city are you located?

San Francisco/Lisboa/Munich/Manila (Philippines)

In what country are you located?


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

Becoming a top idea in this setting will help us to continue working on the project with the strong support by the right partners. Together with their help we would be able to test the concept further, continue developing it to market maturity and to introduce Cup&Co to their environment.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Other

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Thomas Gossner .

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? We recommend making your ideas public as soon as possible so our community can provide feedback and engage with your idea so you can continue editing the submission until the final deadline.

Please click "publish" on your idea at the top of the page!