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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 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?

Photo of Harshad Sreedharan

You make a valid point, Victor.
As we are in the prototype stage, there are a few things we are currently considering - Testing durability, heat, water resistance and the time and rate at which the cup starts disintegrating. These are the sort of things we would like to get mentorship help on.

That said, we can safely say through our own stress test that the prototype cup doesn't disintegrate or dissolve with the impact of hot water and coffee (as shown in the pic in our submission)

Photo of Ben Smith

This cup concept seems very good. The example images show that the cups are thick enough to prevent burning your hand with hot beverages. However, would there be any concern of the cup absorbing the liquid and leaking?

Photo of Harshad Sreedharan

Thanks for the words of appreciation, Ben.
Re: your question, we are exploring the use of Agar based lining and other bioplastics that will prevent from leaking and liquid absorption.


Photo of Kevin Mcmunn

Really like your concept, I found a paper from Thailand that is a high ratio of coffee wastes ( mostly husks off the beans I believe) and a few other related wastes. If you would like to chat, I would be happy to. Kevin

Photo of Harshad Sreedharan

Thanks Kevin. Would love to chat. Drop me a note at

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi team,

Welcome to the Challenge. The deadline to update your submission is this Friday, 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Please let me know if you have any questions before now and your final deadline.

I encourage you to upload as much context as possible to your submissions and supporting photos you'd like included. I'm curious, what are the next steps to roll out the concept and scale? What does distribution look like in China and beyond?

Excited to learn more!

Photo of Harshad Sreedharan

Hi Lauren,
It's great to be part of this awesome and meaningful challenge.

Re: context, anything specific that you would like us to add? We’ve uploaded a bunch of pics showcasing the product.

In terms of next steps, we plan to raise some funding and also partner with another upcycling startup for manufacturing RE:CUP at scale with distribution in home accessories stores in HK.

In China, we plan to start distributing through Taobao, Tmall and WeChat store. Brick and mortar stores and cafes would be the next. In other markets, our plan is to work with speciality coffee chains to start with and then with bigger companies.