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Mug Rental System

The best way to avoid the issues with fiber-based cups is to avoid them entirely, which can be done through a travel mug rental system.

Photo of Omri Ware
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Idea Title


Idea Summary

The best way to avoid the issues with fiber-based cups is to avoid them entirely, which can be done through a travel mug rental system.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

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

The best way to avoid the issues with fiber-based cups is to avoid them entirely, which can be done through a travel mug rental system. This travel mug rental system, called Rent-a-Mug would involve coffee shops buying a large stock of travel mugs and "renting" them to their customers. When a customer purchases a drink, they will be asked if they want it in a rentable mug or a normal paper cup. The mug will cost an additional $20 (can be adjusted based on the price of the cup). If the customer does not bring the mug back, they will have essentially bought a new mug. However, if they do return it they will be credited $22, which will basically be giving them $2 off of their next cup of coffee. One of the best parts of this system is that if customers do not return the mugs, the coffee shop has sold a mug and has profited on that mug transaction separately from the original profit on the coffee itself.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Alternative Delivery System

How is your concept recoverable?

The recoverability problem is solved by the fact that users are renting the cup. They will not get their money back unless the return the cup. If they don't return the cup, they are essentially purchasing the cup, which would also be a positive outcome because it would lead to profit on the seller's end.

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

This solution completely eliminates the need for paper cups in the transactions that it is involved in. It not only eliminates the recoverability issue, but also eliminates the need for paper cups in the first place.

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

The primary target region would be Richmond, Virginia. However, the goal would be to branch out from there across the entire east coast and then across the country.

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

Shop owners would profit from this by essentially selling the cups that do not get returned. Shop owners would also be able to stop worrying about the price that is typically associated with using environmentally friendly supplies. Also, users will benefit from the more personal experience of using a travel mug instead of a paper cup.

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 is figuring out if coffee shops are willing to make the upfront purchase of mugs necessary to begin the system. Although obvious, another challenge is figuring out how many people would actually be willing to use this system.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Business Model Development
  • Branding / Marketing and Storytelling
  • Growth and Scaling

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

I am a Mechanical Engineering student in the da Vinci program at Virginia Commonwealth University with a background in product innovation and design.

In what city are you located?

Richmond, Virginia

In what country are you located?


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

The funding will primarily go toward advertising and branding of the system as the system does not cost very much money to implement. The biggest hurdle is spreading the word and making sure that as many coffee shops as possible know that the system is available to them. Testing and prototyping the system would also require funding to make it as insightful as possible.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Other

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Koldun Victor

An ordinary cardboard cup breaks down in the natural environment roughly in a year or thereabout. Approximately how the fallen leaves does, consisting of the same cellulose. In order for the new material for the production of cups to become a cost effective replacement of cardboard, it should decompose order faster, somewhere in a month, maybe two or three. This is at an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius (according to NASA). But when we pour water near a boiling point, at a temperature of 95 degrees, into such cup , according to the rule of Svante August Arrhenius, all the chemical processes in it, including the self-decay of complex molecules, respectively, accelerate. The minimum acceleration will be somewhere 250 times, and the maximum will be about 65,000 times. That is, for a disposable cup that has been filled for at least an hour, and this is a real situation somewhere on a picnic, there is all the chances to pour out their content on the table at best , at worst, on himself or his electronic devices. Even if this cup was made a few days before that and was stored in a stock in perfect conditions.
Therefore, the question arises - how do you deal with such issue?