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Green Product Green Climate

Banana leaves to replace the plastic lining that cups need to create an degradable material as a whole.

Photo of Lily Liu
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Idea Title

Leaves Leaves

Idea Summary

Banana leaves will replace the wax lining that cups need for an easier material as a whole to decompose.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)


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

Banana leaves to this day and still, have been used by people in many countries. Their large and flexible quality enables for a wide range of applications such as cooking. Some people use these to heat their food or to use as plates. Banana leaves are waterproof and help keep in heat for foods such as rice. Its waterproof quality should enable no need for a plastic lining to prevent leakage. When making a prototype by hand, the bamboo cup was able to hold both hot and cold water but for a limited amount of time. Though its flexibility allowed it to be bent into the shape of a cup, it also made it hard to hold. Attempting to find the best way to hold it gave way to a tear and even just one is enough to break it whole. This then gave the idea that perhaps the entire cup may not have to be made of banana leaves. The paper can still be there with the leaves as a lining to prevent leakage. This both works to help keep the shape of the cup and remove the need for plastic or wax linings. Even rolling up a piece into a straw allowed water to travel up. I was able to obtain a package of the banana leaves from a market for $2.50. Imagine how much cheaper and economically affordable it would be if it was a wholesale purchase.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup
  • Straws
  • Cup Liner

How is your concept recoverable?

Since not all plastic cups are usually recycled, paper is used as a more degradable material. However, the paper material is not ideal for holding liquids. Therefore, most paper cups come with a plastic lining to prevent leakage. The problem is that there is still plastic incorporated in. These two different materials must first be separated before being recycled. With banana leaves, there won't be a need for separation from the paper since they are biodegradable. They do not need to be man-made as they already grow by themselves. They can grow to 9 feet long and 2 feet wide.

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

The average American eats 27 pounds of bananas every year, making then the fourth most popular agricultural product. However, the leaves of the banana tree are so large and get left behind when they can be used for something else. By replacing the plastic and wax lining of cups, factories will no longer need to spend the effort and resources for making the problematic material that plastic can be. Moreover, harvesting banana leaves even has the potential to create jobs.

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

I plan to address regions that use cups the most. Coming from the heart of New York City where countless Americans are up on their feet early in the day, we all witness hundreds of cups being thrown out in and outside of school. Staying open and curious in a city like NY has given me opportunities to meet organizations such as Climate Coalitions and NYRenews that are in the same boat about environmental change. I just have to continue to follow what I am passionate about to raise this issue.

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

Cups are one of the innumerable products that make up the 80% of waste from the US that are not recycled. They instead, get shipped to countries far away such as China or India or end up in garbage patches such as in the Great Pacific. The trash, mainly unrecoverable plastic, threaten the health of our wildlife everyday. Microscopic pieces of plastic get eaten by fish, and eventually travel up the entire food chain, which includes us. By a simple absence of plastic, banana leaves do not pose the same threats that plastic or plastic-incorporated materials such as cups and straws do. This solution will benefit not only cup-users, but fish consumers, people from across the ocean, and wildlife.

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?

The biggest challenge regarding my solution is that I can only make a banana leaf cup or banana leaf-incorporated cup with my hands at the moment. By the time I had learned about this challenged, I had two weeks to consolidate my ideas and really think that more practice would give a nicer touch to my prototype. With a makeshift cup, I cannot see its full potential, but this is only a start. I hope that I can make something great out of it.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Sustainability and Recoverability
  • Product / Industrial Design and Prototyping

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

I am a sophomore at Grace Church High School who joined its Environmental Club. Also being on the Science Olympiad club helped me pick up some building skills. Currently, I am designing a way to extract water molecules for my march madness project.

In what city are you located?

New York City

In what country are you located?


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

Grace Church High School

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

Becoming a Top Idea would mean so much to me. I've always been on the lookout for ways I can contribute back to the planet. Having partners to collaborate with will definitely accelerate my solution as having been a mentee of multiple people before, I've progressed so much. With the funding provided, I can turn this into my March Madness project or work alongside my current to create a final product. I am in touch with someone who has succeeded in one of these challenges before.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sixto Lecuona

I really like the idea! I am from the canary islands and we have very quality bananas. Also, the business production of bananas is looking for international markets.
I also want to ask a few questions. I do not know about the characteristics of the banana but, if you leave your drink too much time in the cup it would take some flavor from the banana? also, the banana could resist hot and cold temperatures right if you leave the liquid much time in the cup? I do not really like the texture of the banana plant, do you think this could be a problem to sell the product to your customer?
Thank you and good job!

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