Existing Issues with Compostable or Recyclable Cups
(From Fastcompany.com) "Most U.S. recycling processors currently don’t take paper coffee cups, because they are lined with a tiny amount of plastic or wax to make them watertight. sorting out cups is not economically feasible"... "Paper mills, in turn, can’t be sure of getting a volume of cups cheaply enough to make it worth their while to invest in the pulpers that can handle them"
Food Safety and Recoverability of Aluminum
75% of aluminum ever produced is still in use today, aluminum cans are highly recoverable because the recycling process involves melting the metal down at extremely high temperatures. In turn, the metal is disinfected.
Double Walled Design
This is a double walled aluminum cup, with space in between inner and outer wall to insulate drink and keep hands from burning when holding the cup. Further prototyping is needed to find ideal aluminum thickness to keep the cup rigid while providing enough insulation against heat. Ideally, no paper sleeve will ever be needed - eliminating the use of paper.
The inner and outer aluminum walls can be individually deep drawn using aluminum sheets, then crimped together around the top rims. These well established processes are in use for aluminum can production today. The cost to produce one regular 12 oz. can is 0.05 - 0.1 cents. The estimated cost for a double walled aluminum cup is roughly 0.2 cents.
In about 10 States there is existing legislature called the "bottle bill" - where the consumer pays an extra x cents per bottle or can, and receives a return when the bottle or can is deposited at a recycling facility. In States with existing bottle taxes, there is more robust recycling infrastructure and a higher rate of recycling amongst consumers. The double walled aluminum can has a higher likelihood of success if deployed in one of these States first.
Social and Economic Impact
If successfully implemented in States with the bottle bill, this will encourage positive environmental legislature changes in other States. More aluminum in circulation will also provide an economic boost to local recycling facilities and homeless population as well; finding valuable discarded recyclable material can be a small source of income for the homeless.