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RE:CUPs are made from coffee grind waste, bioplastic and other natural ingredients making it 100% biodegradable.

Photo of Harshad  Sreedharan

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Idea Title

A cup that goes back into nature.

Idea Summary

RE:CUPs are made from coffee grind waste, bioplastic and other natural ingredients making it 100% biodegradable and reducing our dependence on trees; Thereby creating a closed loop system.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Ground Rule Studio

Website (if applicable)

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

Millions of paper cups with hot and cold beverages are served daily across the world. The sheer volume of this production makes it nearly impossible to address recycling. And it's not an attractive commercial proposition for recycling companies to separate the LDPE layer from the cups and give the paper a second life. As a result, most of the cups end up in the landfill. 

That said, companies such as Starbucks are working with partners like Sustana, WestRock and Seda to recycle old Starbucks cups. The project was successful in recycling 25 Million cups which is a great start yet there is a huge gap that remains to be filled.

RE:CUP is an alternate solution to paper cups keeping the circular economy and environment in mind.

RE:CUP uses the principles of upcycling. We believe that most waste materials can be repurposed into something that can be used again. We use Coffee Grind waste as the main ingredient which we collect from different coffee shops (before they end up in the garbage) and add bioplastics to develop the cup. Also, we are exploring the use of Agar as lining. RE:CUP is 100% biodegradable and reduces our dependence on trees. 

RE:CUP could be a perfect alternative to paper-based cups and by exploring other ingredients like rice husk, bagasse can withstand a temperature of 0℃ - 95℃ for Cappuccinos, Chamomiles and more. The Cup has a distinct feel to it as if one is holding the liquid coffee in hand. It's earthy, chic and can be used for premium and speciality coffee chains. As an alternate use idea, the RE:CUP can be used as a drip coffee device as well.

In terms of recycling, we would encourage people to either return the used   RE:CUP to coffee shops or carry it with them for a refill next morning. After multiple uses, we will collect the cups from coffee shops and reincarnate them into another cup. Alternatively, people could choose to simply turn the cup into a planter after a single use.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup
  • Cup Liner
  • Reusable System

How is your concept recoverable?

We work with coffee chains to source coffee grinds waste for the production of new RE:CUPs and collect old cups to recycle them into new cups. For the cups which can’t be used, we would turn them into other products like coasters, napkin holder, pencils and more.

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

RE:CUPs are made from 100% natural ingredients.

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

This solution can be rolled out globally. That said, we are a Hong Kong-based startup, hence we would like to start with China and subsequently take RE:CUP to the USA and Europe. We are in discussion with WestRock, one of the largest packaging companies in the world to become our production and distribution partner.

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

RE:CUP is a Next Gen solution for paper-based cups. Working with our partners, we aim to target large coffee, fast-food chains and also retail our product separately under ‘Ground Rule’ brand for consumers to buy. Our product is a cost-effective solution using coffee waste as a key ingredient and is 100% biodegradable. It benefits both businesses and conscious consumers who are concerned about the trash epidemic.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Prototyping

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

Scaling the product development and distribution are two biggest challenges. Since its a new product there is a big behaviour change hump to be overcome as well. As people are used to paper cups and most of them are under the misconception that paper can be recycled easily and fail to know about LDPE lining. Other challenges and gaps are as below: Developing an Agar based lining for a large production run and stress testing the durability. Although, talking to our partner ‘EvoWare’ - Agar seaweed bioplastic are used for Burger wrapping and other food items on a large scale. Reducing the thickness and weight of the cup up to 60% by adding another ingredient potentially ‘Rice Husk’. This will also help with faster production runs and reduce the unit cost for mass production. Colour of the cup is something we are trying to address based on the feedback from user research. We are exploring other natural ingredients like Rice Husk and Bagasse to give the cup a paper look and feel.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Product / Industrial Design and Prototyping
  • Fundraising / Finance

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

In what city are you located?

Hong Kong

In what country are you located?


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


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

We would be honoured to be chosen as the top idea and more importantly, it would help us with funding our product development and prototyping, supply chain, distribution, brand marketing and develop a line of new 100% recyclable and biodegradable products from coffee grinds waste and explore other upcycling product ideas in the future. We want to drive awareness of the upcycling movement and our products with a powerful nature and ecosystem story.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • In the news


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sean McCune

Thank you for your contributions to this challenge. As an interested consumer, is there any smell or taste difference when using a RE:CUP instead of a paper-cup?

Photo of Harshad  Sreedharan

Thank you, Sean.
From our research with consumers, the feedback has been positive with no change in taste and no peculiar odour while consuming coffee from RE:CUP.

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