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Double Walled Aluminum Cup (The Silver Lining)

Double walled aluminum cups eliminate the need for sleeves, are highly recyclable, likely to succeed in States with Bottle Bill Legislature

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Idea Title

The Silver Lining

Idea Summary

75% of aluminum ever produced is still in use today, because aluminum is a highly recyclable and valuable material. Using this as the main material for cups will lead to better odds of recycling!

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

Existing Issues with Compostable or Recyclable Cups

(From "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.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot Cup Only
  • Cold Cup Only
  • Some of the Above
  • Alternative Delivery System

How is your concept recoverable?

Existing issues: - Not all paper is compostable due to thin layer of wax. Fix: Aluminum can be coated with a thin layer of Polymeric and resinous coating - covered under 21 CFR 175.300. Further research needed to determine best (healthiest) type of coating needed. - Not enough economic incentive to recycle paper: Fix: Aluminum is one of the most highly valued recyclable materials. - Infrastructure different in every city when it comes to paper. Fix: in states with existing bottle bills, aluminum has achieved high recovery rates due to consumer economic incentives. For example, "the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) estimates the overall redemption rates for deposit containers to be 77.6 percent for 1995. Redemption rate for aluminum 85%" (source:

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

- More aluminum in circulation leads to more local recycling jobs, and a boost for the local economy. - High end design of aluminum cup contributes to social recycling behavior. - High likelihood to succeed in states with bottle bill will lead to public expectation of government to take further responsibility for sustainability, leading to positive social change.

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

As of October 2010, there are 11 states that have container deposit laws; California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Vermont. Out of these states, I would pick cities with the best existing recycling infrastructure to test. After monitoring recycling results and gathering feedback from communities and consumers, this would lead to further product refinement and more successful aluminum market expansions.

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

Who will benefit from your solution, and how? Consumers - More premium beverage experience with cool new design, ease of recycling since aluminum has more opportunities to be recovered due to high value. Local recycling economies - all participants in the recycling chain should enjoy a boost in economic activity. Large corporations - improvement in sustainability standing, improved relationship with consumers, positive social impact.

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?

Biggest challenge: Detailed manufacturing and delivery cost analysis, distribution feasibility. The cost to manufacture such large quantities of aluminum cups needs to be explored further, getting accurate quotes is not feasible on a small prototyping scale. Also, due to the cup's larger volume, more space will be needed during transport to individual shops. Quantity of cups in use today and future predictions will be needed to accurately forecast feasibly of double walled cup distribution. Existing gaps in solution: User testing, more research into 21 CFR 175.300 code standards on aluminum coating toxin standards. Although potential coating solutions may pass code, that does not necessarily mean the solution is what's best for consumers and the environment in the long run. If the double walled aluminum cup is deployed, it's best to plan for the future and be a responsible corporate citizen by leading the pact and doing what's best for future generations.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Supply Chain
  • Legal

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

I'm a Solutions Engineer and Artist, my Team Mate is an FEA Engineer.

In what city are you located?


In what country are you located?

United States

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


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

Funding will be utilized to further research manufacturing, regional recycling infrastructure, and food safety standards in conjunction with cost analysis of production. Success - implement in at least one state as proof of concept to demonstrate economic and social sustainability of aluminum cups. Prove benefits of aluminum delivery system to corporations and local economy to incentivize expansion of aluminum delivery system.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • OpenIDEO announcement email

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Lucy Yan ,

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.